March 4, 2008
THE United Opposition yesterday asked the Senate to act on a resolution filed by detained Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV calling for an inquiry into the “Spratly Deal” allegedly entered into by the Arroyo administration with China “in exchange for dirty loans.”
Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, UNO president, said if Arroyo has indeed signed the deal allowing China to explore Philippine territorial waters, “she has given away our sovereignty to a foreign power in exchange for loans that are the source of multi-million-peso kickbacks and a campaign war chest for the 2010 elections.”
The opposition call came as the Department of Foreign Affairs said a Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) signed on Sept. 1, 2004 with China “does not impinge on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines.”
The DFA called the JMSU “a landmark agreement that affirms the political commitment of three claimant states (the Philippines, China and Vietnam which later signed up) to approach their disputes in the South China Sea in a peaceful and constructive manner.”
“It is a confidence-building measure and is aimed towards the transformation of the South China Sea from a region of conflict to a region of peace and cooperation,” the DFA added.
The JMSU is said to be the precursor of the secret Spratly Deal. The Arroyo administration has rejected calls for the disclosure of the text of the JMSU and its annexes.
Binay said if the Spratly Deal is true, then this shows a regime whose “greed is beyond moderation.”
“If such a deal had been signed, it becomes clear to everyone that the Arroyo administration is willing to surrender our sovereignty for the chance to get kickbacks and build a formidable war chest for whoever will be the anointed candidate in 2010,” he said.
Binay said a Senate probe would put the ZTE-NBN scandal, and the North rail and South rail projects – both said to be tainted by irregularities involving Arroyo, her husband and their cronies – in proper perspective.
“The Senate would no longer need to hold separate probes into the statement of Jun Lozada that the North and South rail deals were also tainted by corruption since these could be investigated as part of a probe into the so-called Spratly Deal,” he said.
Trillanes asked the Senate to investigate the Spratly Deal after it was first exposed by Malaya publisher Amado Macasaet.
Quoting Macasaet, Trillanes said Arroyo might have committed treason if she signed the deal which would allow China to explore territorial waters. The supposed deal also includes exploitation of the country’s exclusive economic zones, which are already contained in a memorandum of agreement signed between the Department of Trade and Industry and ZTE International in January 2007, in exchange for four projects that would cost around $4 billion.
The Chinese were also tying up the Spratly Deal with other loans to the Philippine government, refusing to sign the North Rail agreement unless it is signed along with the Spratly Deal.
China is also financing the $329-million NBN deal with ZTE, the $500-million North railway and the $932-million South railway projects. The CyberEd project of the Department of Education, costing $465 million, was supposed to be financed by Chinese loans.
The DFA statement on the JMSU was in reaction to a recent Far Eastern Economic Review report which said a portion of the JMSU’s coverage is well within the undisputed territory of the Philippines.
According to the DFA, “Vietnam, the People’s Republic of China and the Philippines entered into the JMSU in 2004.”
But according to the website of the Philippine embassy in China, the JMSU between Manila and Beijing was signed on Sept. 1, 2004.
Vietnam joined JMSU only on March 14, 2005.
In the FEER report, former Wall Street Journal Asia editor Barry Wain said the DFA protested the JMSU deal with China because of the absence of consultation with other Asean member-states as required by the Asean-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea adopted in 2002, but it was overruled by Malacañang. – Anthony Ian Cruz