Passage of RP baselines bill will revive China’s offshore mining stint in Spratlys, says fishers group
The newly passed RP baselines bill will signal the revival of the stalled Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) in Spratly Islands with the Chinese government dictating all the aspects and phases of the ambitious offshore mining project in the Kalayaan group of islands, according to the militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya).
“The passage of RP baselines bill is an enabling law to allow the regime of offshore mining giants headed by China to explore the bodies of waters connected by the regime of islands in the Spratlys,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.
On March 10, 2008, Pamalakaya filed a diplomatic protest before the Chinese Consular office in Makati City, urging the Chinese government to refrain from pushing the $ 8-billion offshore mining venture it clinched with the Philippine and Vietnamese governments.
“The new RP baselines bill will pave the way for the re-entry China National Oil Corporation in the Spratly Islands, including portions of Palawan waters to acquire the right to mine the 3.3 trillion cubic meters of gas in Palawan and Spratly group of islands,” the Pamalakaya leader said.
Hicap said after the offshore mining exploration and the successful of tapping of gas and oil reserves, gas pipelines would be set up from Palawan to China, which he said will be the next big thing to happen under JMUS since the transfer of gas can only be done through the construction of gas pipelines like in the case of the Malampaya gas pipeline project.
“That’s the next logical chapter of this highly detestable partnership between the Arroyo government and China courtesy of the RP baselines bill and the predictable revival of JMSU. China will put up its pipelines to complete the loot, and the Malacañang will just beg for alms in the form of taxes and other duties, the Pamalakaya leader added.
Pamalakaya said the RP baselines bill is a complete sellout because it will facilitate the revival of China’s offshore mining interest in Spratlys, and in the next three years, China will establish gas pipelines that would supply the energy sector of China, Malaysia and Singapore and that it would merely engaged in lease contract with the Philippine government for the use of 142,886 square kilometers encompassing Palawan and certain parts of the Spratly Islands being claimed by the Philippines over the last four decades.
The militant group recalled that last year of the interception of Chinese oil exploration vessel Nan Hai which was docked at Puerto Princesa City port to refuel after coming from a seismic operation in Southwest Palawan. Pamalakaya said that aside from seismic operation, it was also convinced that part of the operation is a study on where to put or start the setting up of China’s gas pipelines in Palawan.
“The Chinese oil exploration vessel Nam Hai 502 was in Palawan last year not only to conduct seismic operation because it is already confirmed that trillions of cubic meters of natural gas are found in the waters of Palawan and the Kalayaan group of Islands. The best kept secret there is that the Chinese oil explorers are seemingly engaged in mapping operations regarding the setting up of gas pipelines,” Pamalakaya said.
“We were not born yesterday not to understand this geographical escapade of Chinese oil exploration. Once they explore, all aspects are considered from identification of gas deposits to how these deposits would be taken off and transferred to the home base of the oil exploration giant and their big-time clients in neighbor countries,” the group added.
Pamalakaya said that although Antonio Calilao, president of the state-owned Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) has admitted that the entire 142,886 square kilometer area covered by the controversial Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) among the Philippines, China and Vietnam are all within Philippine territory, he did not touch on the prospects of constructing gas pipelines for fear of making JMSU more controversial and more disparaging in the eyes of the outraged public.
Calilao said JMSU as a purely commercial agreement has a precedent citing the joint Australian-Philippine cooperation, the joint Norwegian-Philippine cooperation, stressing that involvement of other nationalities in such undertaking is a very common practice here.
In a related development, Pamalakaya revealed that the Arroyo government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Trans-ASEAN Gas Pipeline (TAGP) with Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam that would allow the construction of an ambitious gas pipeline from Palawan to East Natuna, Sabah, Malaysia.
Pamalakaya said the gas pipeline project that would link the Philippines through Palawan and Malaysia through East Natuna in Sabah, Malaysia was the product of the MoU on the ASEAN wide gas pipeline project.
The militant group said the Palawan-Malaysia gas pipeline project will go as far as 1,540 kilometers, with the gas pipeline measuring 42 inches in diameter. The cost of the gas line project between the Philippines and Malaysia would amount to $ 3.036 B. The project would start this year and would be completed in 2015.
Pamalakaya said other pipelines to be constructed are the Malaysia-Thailand gas pipeline, the Indonesia-Singapore gas pipeline and the Myanmar-Thailand gas pipeline. Hicap said Singapore is also eying its own gas pipeline that would connect the Philippines through the Camago in Palawan.
“Nothing has been said about this ambitious gas pipeline project. It remains a national confidential project on the part of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The people were kept uninformed and Congress has not been advised that such monumental project exists that has serious implications to the nation’s sovereignty and patrimony,” Pamalakaya said.
The group added:” If there’s nothing wrong about this project, why would President Arroyo keep this project like a big, big secret? We smell something fishy here, as fishy as JMSU.”
According to the eight-page MoU document obtained by Pamalakaya, the agreement was signed on July 5, 2002 in Bali, Indonesia by Abdul Rahman Taib, Brunei’s Minister of Industry and Primary Resources, Suy Sem, Cambodian Minister for Industry, Mines and Energy, Purnomo Yusgiantoro, Indonesian Minister for Mineral Resources and Energy, Nam Viyaketh, Laos’ Deputy Minister of Industry and Handicraft, Leo Moggie, Malaysian Minister of Energy, Communications and Multimedia, Brig. General Lun Thi, Myanmar Minister of Energy, Raymond Lim Siang Keat, Singapore Minister of Foreign Affairs, Phongthep Thepkanjana, Minister to the Prime Minister office of Thailand, Dang Vu Chu, Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and former Department of Energy secretary Vincent Perez Jr. for the Philippine government.
The MOU states, “Realizing that energy self-sufficiency can be achieved through national and multinational efforts geared towards indigenous energy resource exploration, development, exploitation, distribution and transportation, and undertaken in a manner that both conserves the resources a nd preserves the environment and human habitat.”
The MOU, which is consistent with the vision of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) countries to promote energy cooperation in the region, was first tackled on June 24, 1986 in Manila when members of ASEAN forged an agreement on energy cooperation, followed by the ASEAN Energy Cooperation in Bangkok on Dec. 15, 1995.
The TAGP is a specific energy program approved in Hanoi, Vietnam and was endorsed by ASEAN heads of state December 16, 1998. On July 3, 1999, the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation from 1999-2004 was approved, and it entrusted the responsibility of implementing the TAGP to the ASEAN council on Petroleum (ASCOPE). In 2002, the final MOU on gas pipeline projects across ASEAN was signed by its member states.
The objective of the gas pipeline project is to provide a broad framework for ASEAN member countries to cooperate towards the realization of the TAGP project to help ensure greater regional energy security.
The MOU for gas pipeline projects task all member countries to establish cooperation in various aspects such as individual and joint studies, and to support or encourage the production, utilization, distribution, marketing and sale of natural gas among ASEAN member nations.
Pamalakaya said ASEAN nations have virtually opened the floodgates for economic plunder by big gas and oil monopolies when it announced that funding would be secured from the private sector that has the means and technology to explore and extract the rich gas resources still abundant in Southeast Asian region.
“It is a sell out. In fact, this corporate prey was probably used by the Philippine government to sign the JMSU and sold its stake in the disputed Spratly Islands, including its own territory like Palawan, which is incidentally the object of the Palawan-Malaysia gas pipeline project,” the militant group said.
The agreement also recognizes the role to be played by the private sector in developing gas pipelines, including its financing and construction, and the supply, transportation and distribution of natural gas to member countries. The TAGP promotes the open access principle including management of pipelines according to internationally accepted rules as set by established oil and gas industries all over the world.
The MoU on TAGP also encourage exemption of export and import tax duties, lower or free transit fee, tax duties or other taxes imposed by the government, including charges on construction, operation and maintenance of pipelines as well as the natural gas in transit. #