Manila [Philippine], January 12 (ANI): Philippines' apex court has declared unconstitutional an agreement on oil exploration in the South China Sea concluded in 2005 by the Philippines, China, and Vietnam, The Philippine Star newspaper reported.
The report said that the court decision went against the deal state-owned companies from the three nations signed the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JSMU), which allowed them to jointly explore for oil near waters surrounding the disputed Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea.
"The court ruled that the JSMU is unconstitutional for allowing wholly-owned foreign corporations to participate in the exploration of the country's natural resources without observing the safeguards provided in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution," the court said in a statement, as quoted by English-language newspaper The Philippine Star.
Citing a constitutional provision, the court said all lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State.
"The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State," the provision read.
According to the top court, the case stemmed from the original action for prohibition assailing the constitutionality of the JMSU filed by petitioners from opposition parties. They took the case to court, saying the project, which expired in 2008, was unconstitutional as the Constitution does not allow foreign entities to explore natural resources.
Former Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate called the ruling a win for Philippine sovereignty.
"A WIN for our country's sovereignty! @BayanMuna filed this petition as far back as 2008 as China has been using JMSU as cover in its unbridled exploration and incursion in our territory, particularly in the West Philippine Sea," he tweeted.
The Court, noting that the term "exploration" pertains to a search or discovery of something in both its ordinary or technical sense, ruled that the JMSU involves the exploration of the country"s natural resources, particularly petroleum.
The Philippine Supreme Court released its decision as China sought to revive an oil exploration deal with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. Chinese President Xi Jinping expressed readiness to seek petroleum and natural gas development in non-disputed waters by resuming negotiations when he met with the Philippine President last week. (ANI)