Press Release
March 24, 2008

Villar wants independent expert opinion on Spratlys

Believing that the issue of the Spratlys is a highly technical concern, Senate President Manny Villar requested for an expert's opinion to provide an independent and informed perspective on the Joint Marine Scientific Research in Certain Areas in the South China Sea, which RP entered into with China and Vietnam.

"I believe the agreement is a highly technical concern requiring an expert opinion using accepted scientific methodology," Villar said.

In a letter dated March 17 to Dr. Maria Lourdes San Diego-Macglone, director, University of the Philippines Marine Science Institute, Villar requested the institute to comment on the agreement.

"I am confident given the recognized reputation of the institute and the vast researches conducted in the areas of marine science, physical oceanography, marine geology, chemistry and related discipline, UP experts will be able to provide us guidance on how to examine this agreement," Villar said.

Specifically, Villar wants to know the following: 1) What is the nature of a marine seismic undertaking; and 2) Whether the marine seismic undertaking is a pre-exploratory activity or already an exploration process.

"Determination of the activity as pre-exploration or exploration puts to rest a lot of questions, including the constitutionality of this agreement done without the knowledge of Congress," Villar said.

Villar cited Article XII Section 2 of the Constitution, which states that the President shall notify the Congress of every contract entered into with foreign-owned corporations involving either technical or financial assistance for large-scale exploration.

"We want to know whether or not the marine seismic undertaking is equivalent to mapping and thus, a purely pre-exploratory activity or is it an exploration process per se. Let the experts tell us if seismic sounding is considered an integral part of the exploitation of the country's natural resources," he said.

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