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SC upholds ruling on JMSU of tripartite pact

July 6, 2023 Hector Lawas 191 views

THE Supreme Court has dismissed a motion for reconsideration on its January 10, 2023 ruling that declared the Tripartite Agreement for Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) unconstitutional.

The agreement, which involved state-owned corporations from the Philippines, China, and Vietnam and encompassed a 142,886 square kilometer area in the South China Sea, was found to be in violation of the country’s Constitution.

In an en banc resolution, the SC stated that the motion for reconsideration simply restated the arguments already addressed in the previous comment and memorandum, thereby lacking merit.

The court’s original decision ruled the JMSU unconstitutional due to its inclusion of wholly-owned foreign corporations in the exploration of the Philippines’ natural resources, without adhering to the safeguards outlined in Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.

By denying the motion for reconsideration, the high court reaffirmed its position that the JMSU remains unconstitutional.

The court emphasized that the agreement involves the exploration of natural resources, citing the JMSU’s objective, as stated in its Fifth Whereas Clause, to “engage in joint research of petroleum resource potential” within the designated area.

The case arose from a legal action filed by petitioners Bayan Muna Party-List Representatives Satur C. Ocampo and Teodoro A. Casiño, and others, challenging the constitutionality of the JMSU through an original petition for certiorari and prohibition.

The petitioners argued that the JMSU violated Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution, which stipulates that the exploration, development, and utilization (EDU) of natural resources must be under the complete control and supervision of the State.

They contended that the JMSU allowed foreign corporations fully owned by China and Vietnam to engage in large-scale exploration of the country’s petroleum resources, contravening the constitutional provision that reserves the EDU of natural resources for Filipino citizens or corporations with at least 60% Filipino ownership.

On the other hand, the respondents maintained that Section 2, Article XII of the Constitution did not apply, as it pertains to the EDU of natural resources, while the JMSU only involves pre-exploration activities.

The SC determined that the term “exploration” encompasses both its ordinary and technical meanings, denoting a search or discovery. Consequently, the court ruled that the JMSU indeed involves the exploration of the Philippines’ natural resources, particularly petroleum.

Furthermore, the court concluded that since the JMSU involves the exploration of the country’s petroleum resources, it falls within the scope of Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution.