SC affirms rejection of 2005 marine survey deal | Inquirer News

SC affirms rejection of 2005 marine survey deal

/ 05:42 AM February 17, 2024

The Supreme Court has denied with finality a motion for reconsideration filed on the decision to declare the Arroyo-era joint exploration with China and Vietnam in 2005 as unconstitutional. In an 18-page resolution, the high court affirmed its ruling that the Tripartite Agreement for Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) among companies from China, Vietnam and the Philippines was unconstitutional as it allowed wholly owned foreign corporations to participate in the exploration of the country’s natural resources without observing the safeguards provided in the constitution.

In May 2008, legislators, taxpayers, and citizens directly filed a petition for certiorari before the high court to challenge the constitutionality of the JMSU. Named respondents were former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, the foreign affairs and energy secretaries, the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) and the Philippine National Oil Company Exploration Corp.

In granting the request of the petitioners in 2023, the high tribunal defined “exploration” under Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution, as the “search or discovery of the existence of natural resources.”


The high court said the JMSU was covered by such a definition as it was aimed at conducting a seismic survey to determine the “petroleum research potential” of a particular area in the South China Sea, which the Philippines claim as part of its territory. The court declared the agreement as unconstitutional after failing to satisfy the requirements under the constitution which states that the exploration, development, and utilization of the natural resources must be directly done by the state, through a joint venture with Filipino citizens or qualified company, through small-scale utilization of natural resources by qualified Filipino citizen, or by an agreement which the President may enter into with foreign-owned entities providing fiscal or financial support.The respondents, through the Office of the Solicitor General, opted to file the current motion seeking to reverse the 2023 SC decision.


In denying the appeal with finality, the high court cited the lack of merit as the “motion merely relied on the issues raised in the respondents’ comment and memorandum.”

“As eloquently stated by Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo in his separate concurring opinion to the assailed decision, neither the PNOC nor the DOE (Department of Energy) is authorized to enter into agreements pertaining to large-scale exploration of natural resources in the exclusive economic zone,” it said.

“Only the President is given such authority. For this reason alone, JMSU should be held unconstitutional,” it added.

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TAGS: marine, Supreme Court, survey

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