The Duterte administration cannot enter into a joint development agreement with another country to exploit areas within the country's exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said Thursday.
In a television interview, Carpio said entering into such an agreement with another country is prohibited under the 1987 Philippine Constitution.
The ruling said there was no evidence that China had historically exercised exclusive control over the South China Sea and its resources.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Perfecto Yasay was earlier reported as saying that the Philippines is willing to share natural resources with China in the contested areas of the South China Sea. He later issued a clarification saying what he meant was that the Philippine government has to “wait for the ruling and study and dissect its implications.”
"The ruling said there is no overlapping EEZ in China," Carpio said on Thursday. "The Constitution says the EEZ is part of the national territory of Philippines."
He added the Constitution also states that the country should protect the resources within its EEZ.
“So whether it is President Duterte, President Arroyo, or any other president, that cannot be compromised. You cannot enter into joint development within our EEZ. It is prohibited by the Constitution,” Carpio said.
Carpio said what is allowed in the Constitution is contracting other companies to do the drilling just like what is being done in Malampaya.
“The EEZ is exclusive that is why you cannot have joint development. That is exclusive, so why will you share? What we can do is ask other countries to develop and we will pay them,” he reiterated.
He said the government should also start making strong presence in the mineral-rich Reed Bank, which the country will need in the coming years as Malampaya will run out of gas in 10 years.
“We need a Reed Bank. That is why we have to do something about this. This is for our future on energy, future in food, and other new energy sources. We are talking of a lot of mineral resources in the seabed of our EEZ,” he said.
China has blocked Philippine fishing attempts and oil exploration in Reed Bank.
Carpio said the government should send survey ships there and tell Chinese personnel not to harass Filipinos again.
He added that the Philippines should have consultation with the member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations that are affected by China's nine-dash line claim before talking with Beijing. —Amita Legaspi/KBK, GMA News