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Palace maintains Spratlys deal constitutional

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:11:00 03/12/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang maintained that the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) between the Philippines, China, and Vietnam in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea did not violate the Constitution.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita also said that the JMSU would be made public at the “appropriate time” and that the government had “nothing to hide.”

Ermita was addressing criticism the seismic study for oil under the JMSU was tantamount to exploration, which would violate a Constitutional provision that says only the state can exploit the country’s natural resources.

Opposition lawmakers are seeking an investigation into allegations that the Arroyo administration has threatened the country’s claim on the Spratlys by entering into the JMSU, purportedly in exchange for a multi-billion-dollar loan package from China for projects that include the scandal-tainted national broadband network deal.

“It [seismic study] is a pre-exploration activity, so it is not a violation of the Constitution,” Ermita said, quoting from an opinion of Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez.

“There really is nothing to hide. What is important is that this JMSU is a scientific undertaking, it’s not exploration,” he added.

A government legal team is studying whether or not to pursue phase two of the JMSU. The first phase of the agreement will end in June this year.

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Written by joelguinto

WedUTC2008-03-12T09:20:37+00:00UTC03bUTCWed, 12 Mar 2008 09:20:37 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am03

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