PH Energy dep’t. vows to protect petroleum resources in West Philippine Sea

Robie de Guzman   •   April 22, 2021   •   387

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Energy (DOE) vowed to take necessary steps to assert the Philippines’ rights over petroleum and other resources in the West Philippine Sea should any foreign state engage in petroleum activities within the area.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi issued the statement after President Rodrigo Duterte said in his public address on Monday that he would send the country’s warships to the West Philippine Sea once the country starts drilling for oil and other resources in the seabed of the region.

“The Department of Energy (DOE) stands firmly behind any decision and action of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte regarding the assertion of the exclusive licensing authority of the Philippines over petroleum and other resources in the seabed and subsoil of the West Philippine Sea,” he said.

Cusi said the DOE supports the President’s statements regarding the defense of the resources of the Philippine seabed and subsoil as this s in accordance with the Philippine laws.

“Under our laws, only the Philippine government, through the DOE, may issue licenses to drill in Philippine land territory, including its islands, internal waters, territorial sea, exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and continental shelf,” he said.

“Should any foreign state engage in petroleum activities inside the Philippine petroleum jurisdiction, the DOE shall take the necessary steps to protect our licensees and preserve our resources,” he added.

“It shall defer to the sole prerogative of the President regarding any security option. It shall also conform to any decision that the Department of Foreign Affairs might take regarding the ongoing informal negotiations on oil and gas cooperation with China.”

Tensions between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea surfaced anew due to the lingering presence of Chinese vessels in waters within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

The Department of National Defense has called for the immediate removal of these vessels while the Department of Foreign Affairs filed a series of diplomatic protests over the issue.

“Meanwhile, the DOE continues to develop the uncontested Philippine EEZ and continental shelf through the resumption of petroleum operations by our licensees and the award of new petroleum areas,” the department said.

“The Philippines remains in business, COVID-19 and China, notwithstanding,” it added.

DND’s Lorenzana backs Duterte remark on arbitral ruling on WPS vs China

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Thursday expressed agreement with President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent remark on the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) favoring the Philippines in its case against China’s activities in the West Philippine Sea.

“What President Duterte said last night regarding the PCA ruling is correct,” Lorenzana said in a statement, referring to Duterte’s statement that nothing happened when he tried to assert the arbitral ruling on the Philippines’ rights in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea.

In a pre-taped public address on Wednesday night, Duterte said he tried to pursue the arbitral ruling when he came to power in 2016 but “nothing happened,” adding that the ruling was “just a piece of paper” that can be tossed into a waste basket.

Lorenzana said he agrees with the President when he said that there is no international law enforcement body that can enforce the ruling.

He, however, stressed that even without the PCA ruling, the Philippine government will still continue to defend “what is rightfully ours.”

“As I said in my previous statement, the President’s orders have been firm and straightforward: we defend what is rightfully ours without going to war and maintain the peace in the seas,” he said.

Lorenzana also said that Philippine Coast Guard and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will continue conducting maritime exercises in the West Philippine Sea and the Kalayaan Island Group.

The National Task Force on the West Philippine Sea earlier said that it has intensified maritime patrols in the West Philippine Sea after Chinese vessels were spotted lingering in areas within the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

The Department of Foreign Affairs have repeatedly filed diplomatic protests over Chinese incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

Carpio accepts Duterte’s challenge to debate on West Philippine Sea issue

Robie de Guzman   •   May 6, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Thursday accepted President Rodrigo Duterte’s challenge to go on a debate over the West Philippine Sea issue.

“I gladly accept the challenge anytime at the President’s convenience,” Carpio said in a statement.

In a pre-taped briefing on Wednesday night, Duterte said he only has two or three questions for Carpio when they face in a debate on the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte said he would ask Carpio on who ordered the Philippine Navy to retreat from area during the 2012 standoff, what did the administration of then President Benigno Aquino do about it and did they enforce the ruling when they filed and won the case.

Duterte has been reiterating that former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario was involved in the decision to withdraw the Philippine ships from the West Philippine Sea.

He also said that Del Rosario and Carpio should be investigated for their role in China’s occupation of some areas in the contested waters, adding that he would “resign immediately” if he was proven to be lying about this matter.

Carpio, however, denied involvement in the issue.

“President Duterte should now resign immediately to keep his word of honor. I state under oath that I was never involved in the decision to withdraw Philippine Navy ships from the West Philippine Sea during the 2012 Scarborough standoff,” he said.

“I was serving in the Supreme Court at that time and all I new about the withdrawal of Philippine Navy ships was what I read in the newspapers,” he added.

“I call as my witnesses former President Benigno Aquino III and the Defense Secretary, Foreign Affairs Secretary and the chiefs of the Philippine Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard at that time,” he further stated.

Duterte on retaking West Philippine Sea: ‘I never promised the people I would’

Marje Pelayo   •   May 4, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte recalled his conversation with President Xi Jinping regarding the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

According to Duterte he asked the communist leader to just let Filipinos fish in the West Philippine Sea.

“I told China, it’s yours according to you, I’ve heard several times. But you also have heard of the fact that people are hungry. Ang Pilipino ay gutom (Filipinos are hungry) and you are not oblivious to that fact. So kindly just allow our fishermen to fish in peace,” he said.

The President said he is ready to talk with China should conflict arise over the disputed territory.

“There’s no reason for trouble. If there is one brewing, you call our attention and we can talk immediately to solve the problem,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Chief Executive said he never made a campaign promise to retake the WPS.

“I never, never in my campaign as president, promised the people that I would retake the West Philippine Sea. I did not promise that I would pressure China,” he said. “I never mentioned about China and the Philippines in my campaign because that was a very serious matter.”

But President Duterte stressed that he is ready to fight for the country’s sovereignty and he will not order a retreat of Philippine vessels patrolling in the area.

Reacting to Duterte’s statement, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio reminded the former of  his statement during the presidential campaign about riding on a jetski to Scarborough Shoal and hoisting the Philippine flag there.

He also said Duterte had issued a statement fully supporting the arbitration case against China.

Thus, Carpio said, President Duterte cannot say that he never mentioned the West Philippine Sea issue or he would be admitting that he was fooling millions of Filipinos which, the former justice said, is tantamount to “grand estafa”.

“President Duterte cannot now say that he never discussed or mentioned the West Philippine Sea issue when he was campaigning for President. Otherwise, he would be admitting that he was fooling the Filipino people big time. There is a term for that–grand estafa or grand larceny. Making a false promise to get 16 million votes,” Carpio said.

For Senator Panfilo Lacson, it is necessary to revisit the Philippines’ diplomatic relations with China.

“Maybe a review of the country’s diplomatic relations is timely and called for. All the diplomatic protests that the Secretary of Foreign Affairs filed have been ignored as if nothing was filed at all. The continued incursions and bullying finally got his goat,” he said. MNP (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

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