Gov’t to release details on PH, China agreements

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DAVAO CITY (November 21)-  Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo has assured the public that the government will release the details of the agreements inked between the Philippines and China.

Chinese President Xi Jinping ended a state visit to the Philippines on Wednesday as Filipino lawmakers pressed for the full disclosure on the new bilateral deals, including for oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea.

Panelo said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) was “still preoccupied” with the visit but would release the content of the agreement in its entirety soon.

“We assure everyone that the government would release all pertinent information for public consumption once President Xi’s visit has culminated, and as soon as the complete, proper and correct documents become certified and available,” Panelo said in a statement.

President Rodrigo Duterte and Xi witnessed the signing of 29 agreements related to trade and commerce, economic cooperation, agriculture, including oil and gas exploration.

Senator Chiz Escudero said the government must be transparent, especially in agreements involving the country’s resources. “I am asking on behalf of the nation that the government let the public know details of the exploration deal between the Philippines and China,” Escudero emphasized.

Escudero said that any agreement on joint exploration should be between two private firms, and not directly state controlled. “It should not be between the governments of the Philippines and China because that could have future implication in the arbitral ruling,” he added.

Opposition senatorial bet, former solicitor general Florin Hilbay said the agreements deserve scrutiny because they do not only involve huge amounts of money but exploration in Philippine territory.

“We need to see the framework of the agreements, is it constitutional? In the development and exploration of natural resources, the full control has to be under the state,” said Hilbay who was part of the legal panel that won the Philippines its case against China before the international Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague.

The MoU on oil and gas exploration states that both countries agreed on a sharing deal, under which the Philippines would get a 60 percent stake in resources extracted from the Reed Bank and China would get the remaining 40 percent.

In 2016, an international arbitration court in The Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines and threw out China’s expansive claims to the sea region, which it says it owns almost in its entirety based on historical grounds.-  Jiann Padillo/ NewsLine

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