Press Release
January 13, 2023


Q: Where does this leave the Philippines when it comes to, of course, pursuing oil exploration as it has been one of the priorities of President Marcos as well as defending the disputed territories.

SEN.WIN: Let's go back to the Supreme Court decision on the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking. Basically, what the Supreme Court said is that any exploration whether it's pre- exploration or it's the main exploration is considered an exploration. And if you are going to explore, develop and utilize resources under our exclusive economic zone, also within our territorial jurisdiction, it should be under full control and supervision of the state which is the Philippines. So meaning any activity there, our government should be the one revising and it should be under our local laws and constitution. So this sets up parameters, it sets the parameter for any joint exploration that will be undertaken by, whether it's China or other countries, but it's just a parameter and it will now guide the potential joint exploration that is being discussed between the Philippines and China.

Q: Thank you for establishing that Senator. Do you see this agreement at least being amended to make it constitutional?

SEN.WIN: If you're talking about the agreement between China and the Philippines there is no agreement. In fact, the Philippines, our country, the Philippines and China have been working on this agreement for a very long time, I think almost four to five years already. What we have is only an understanding that we will jointly explore oil and gas within our territory and within our exclusive economic zone. It's just an understanding, it's even more superficial than understanding. It's just something that we both agree that we should do, but in terms of the details, which laws, and how to do it, there is no there is no formal document yet. What our country and China wants to do is to study all the complications and study how to move forward but then again, the Supreme Court decision sets the parameters on what they should be looking at, and it becomes the minimum requirement for any joint exploration moving forward.

Q: Well, the Philippines and China have had tricky relations as you would say, especially when it comes to the disputed territories. And now that the parameters have been set and established, do you think at least China would be amenable to these things?

SEN. WIN: I think the actions will speak for itself. The last administration tried very hard to move forward with the joint exploration. In fact, the technical working group chaired by the DFA and the Department of Energy should narrow down the things that we should be clear about and what we can agree on and what we cannot agree on. Obviously, after four years, nothing happened and obviously, it's more complex than what they thought and obviously, there are a lot of things that they cannot agree on. One of which is the law that should be governing the joint exploration. And our country has been very, very firm that it should be within our local laws, and it should be within the parameters of our Constitution.

Q: You described it best, complex talks that are still ongoing, with this in mind, what are the other avenues that the country can explore?

SEN.WIN: Personally, I'm not so optimistic that we can move forward with this joint exploration. It's good that we are talking. It's good that we are open to it. But when you go to the nitty gritty of things, especially the governing law that should prevail. I think we will hit a snag with that issue, and I think that, the best case here or the best evidence will be what was discussed during the last administration. I am of the opinion that we should explore all possibilities in terms of harnessing oil and gas in that area. The West Philippine Sea is the most prolific when it comes to oil and gas and it's to our interest to be energy secure. Therefore, we should explore the potential of the West Philippine Sea. However, we're also looking for ways to work with China. But the Supreme Court already set the minimum standard and I think the overarching message of the Supreme Court there in their decision is that our constitution should prevail. Our constitution should be the governing document, and that is a minimum standard that any activity whether it's a joint exploration, joint venture or production, it should be our constitution that should be governing the activity.

Q: Do you see the Philippines pursuing, I guess a partnership with another country that would be able to abide by this?

SEN. WIN: We have. If you look at Malampaya, Malampaya is run by Europeans and Americans. And the Malampaya project is being governed by PD 87, which is the oil and gas, local oil and gas law of the country and it's also compliant to our constitution. So yes, we can, but the West Philippines issue is much more complex because China is claiming it, and that becomes an uncertain factor in terms of how to move forward with oil and gas exploration. Of course, our minimum standard is that it is within our exclusive economic zone, therefore our law should govern. Our Constitution should be the enabling document, and that's our minimum standard and if China cannot follow that, then this is where the complexity will come in.

Q: Well, lastly, Senator, I guess some sort of wishful thinking, is it possible for the government, I guess, to be able to afford a solo exploration?

SEN. WIN: Realistically, to be honest about it, we don't have the technical capability, we don't have the capital. Unfortunately, we also don't have the manpower or the manpower know-how, in terms of exploring large scale oil and gas that's why in the past, Chevron and Shell came in, they provided the technical expertise. This is a highly technical project and you need decades, decades and years and years of experience in terms of exploring deep well, deepwater oil and gas projects and we don't have that. That's why we need to partner with different countries, Europeans, Americans and even China. But then again, we have to stress that our local law should prevail in any exploration within our exclusive economic zone and within our territorial waters.

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