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Administration's Lack of Tranparency Could Mean Spratly's Oil Lost Forever

arañaque Congressman Congressman Roilo Golez points to the Spratly Islands during his press conference on 3/10/08Roilo Golez in a press conference at the historic Manila Hotel on Monday, March 10, 2008, outlined the area covered by the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU)—a tripartite agreement between the Philippines, China and Vietnam. According to the congressman Golez, that agreement, signed by the national oil companies of the three countries on March 14, 2005, has not only strengthened China's claim to the disputed Spratlys, but even worse, it has prevented the Philippines from exploring for oil reserves in some areas off Palawan—in waters that are indisputably part of Philippine territory. Several local and foreign companies that were surveying for oil and mineral deposits near the Palawan coastline have either voluntarily ceased operations, or have been prevented from continuing by Philippine authorities due the the provisions of the JMSU.  

The Spratly Islands (circled in red), and the major countries laying claim to them: Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and MalaysiaThis major concession by the Philippines, the country which China sees as the weakest among those laying claim to the Spratlys, was a pre-condition—some say, for the generous loans that China would later give the Philippines such as the $400 million North Luzon Railways Project, or the scandal-laden NBN-ZTE deal.

And it is the atrocious lack of transparency of the Gloria Arroyo Administration that is helping fan the flames of suspicion, leading many sectors to ask for a full disclosure, not just of the JMSU, but all other agreements with the People's Republic of China. What exactly are we giving up in exchange for Chinese financial largess? Not only Filipinos alive today, but their children, grandchildren and generations yet to be born will be paying back these loans, and they deserve to know what it is exactly they are getting, not getting, or giving up in return.

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