Filipinos enraged over Spratly Deal with China

6 March 2008

Senate sets inquiry into Spratlys accord
Agreement signed with China in 2004 comes under fire from Senate

By Efren L. Danao
Manila Times

Add one more item on the long list of Senate inquiries—the agreementbetween the Philippines and China for a joint exploration in the South China Sea, including the disputed Spratly Islands.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson has filed Senate Resolution 319 seeking an investigation into the agreement signed on September 2, 2004 with China, supposedly in exchange for $8 billion in official development assistance from that country.

Lacson said in signing the agreement with China, the Philippines broke off from an earlier agreement that members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) deal with China as a bloc on the South China Sea issue.

The Spratlys, believed to be oil-rich, is a group of islands off the South China Sea that is claimed in part or in whole by the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, China, Indonesia and Taiwan. The exploration area covers 142,886 square kilometers, one-sixth of which were described as within the Philippine jurisdiction and not claimed by either China or Vietnam.

Lacson alleges treason on agreement

Lacson said treason could have been committed if Philippine officials signed the agreement for the joint exploration in the South China Sea in exchange for loans “attended by bribery and corruption.” Senate President Manuel Villar supports the Senate inquiry to be conducted by the blue-ribbon committee, or the defense or the foreign relations committee.

“We should dig deeper into this agreement. Why did we give China such a privilege and what did we get in return? We broke off with other Asean countries which normally negotiates as a bloc with China, and we should know why,” he said.

He considers the inquiry into the joint exploration of the Spratlys a priority undertaking of the Senate.

“The Spratlys issue is very important and Malacañang has much explaining to do,” Villar said.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Opposition backs 'Spratly deal' probe

Sunstar Manila

WITH the inquiry into the botched US$329 million national broadband network (NBN) deal still unresolved, the political opposition asked the Senate to act on a bill filed by detained Senator Antonio Trillanes IV calling for an investigation into the "Spratly deal" allegedly entered into by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo with China in exchange for loans.

The call was made by United Opposition (UNO) president and Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay who said the administration must be made to account for the deal if indeed such a deal was signed.

"So-called Spratly deal is a matter of serious concern not only for the Senate but for all Filipinos. If Mrs. Arroyo had indeed entered into such an agreement with China, then it clearly shows a regime whose greed is beyond moderation," Binay said.

Last week, Trillanes who was detained for leading the 2003 Oakwood mutiny and last year's standoff at the Manila Peninsula Hotel filed Resolution 309 asking the Senate to investigate the agreement signed by President Arroyo with China in September 2004 to explore areas in the South China Sea including parts exclusively belonging to the country.

Trillanes filed the resolution after Malaya publisher Amado Macasaet came up with report last week that what Malacañang once dubbed a "landmark" agreement to jointly explore parts of the disputed islands in the Spratlys is allegedly a "treacherous sellout of Philippine interest and Philippine sovereignty in exchange for overpriced loans for anomalous projects which include the NBN-ZTE deal, the North and South railway projects, the Department of Education (DepEd) Cyber-Ed project, among others."

The supposed deal also includes exploitation of the country's exclusive economic zones, which are already contained in a memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed between the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and ZTE International in January 2007, in exchange for four projects that would cost US$4 billion. Macasaet said officials of the Philippine Navy and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) who raised the question of sovereignty were simply ignored.

Binay said if indeed a deal was signed allowing China to explore the country's territorial waters, then President Arroyo should be investigated "for giving away the country's sovereignty to a foreign power in exchange for loans that are the multimillion-peso source of kickbacks."

He feared that kickbacks could be used to finance the campaign chest of the administration in the 2010 presidential election much like he said in the 2004 elections when P729 million in funds for fertilizers were utilized for political purpose.

"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 campaign war chest for whoever will be the anointed candidate in 2010," said Binay noting that the "administration candidate will be funded by money that was exchanged for our sovereignty."

He said a Senate investigation would put the NBN issue and the North and South railway projects in proper perspective. "The Senate would no longer need to hold separate probe into the statement of NBN witness Rodolfo Lozada Jr. that the North and South railway projects were also tainted with corruption since these could be investigated as part of the probe into the so-called Spratly deal," the mayor said.

Several lawmakers, including Senators Panfilo Lacson, Manuel Roxas II, Rodolfo Biazon and Ma. Consuelo "Jamby" Madrigal, have called for an investigation into the railroad projects. (AH/Sunnex)


Senate to review RP-China Spratlys deal

Thursday, March 6, 2008 06:46 PM

Senate President Manuel Villar Jr said today that the Senate will review the joint seismic agreement with People's Republic of China to determine if it has any impact on the country's national sovereignty and diplomatic relations with neighboring Asian countries.

Villar said the Senate committee concerned will start the investigation on the Spratlys agreement based on the the resolutions filed by Senators Panfilo Lacson, Jamby Madrigal and detained Magdalo leader, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

"I myself believe that the Spratlys agreement should be investigated to determine why China is given such special privilege and what are the concessions behind this. It seems we broke rounds with the ASEAN countries, it's the ASEAN which negotiates with China as a block. How come the Philippines went on his own?" Villar said.

Lacson, Madrigal and Trillanes want to determine of President Arroyo may have erred and committed treachery by committing the country into yet another controversial deal with China. They also suspect that the 2004 agreement was a "precondition" of the other agreements such as the national broadband deal, Southrail and Northrail, and Cyber Education projects.

"We really have to look more deeply into the Spratlys Islands issue because it maybe tantamount to sub-treacherous act by the Office of the President," Lacson said.Lacson revealed he has a copy of the joint agreement between the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation which was signed in 2004. - Christine Mendez (


Political opposition urges probe into 'Spratly deal'


MANILA, Philippines - The political opposition on Monday urged 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.

"If President Arroyo has signed the deal, "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," a report by Malaya newspaper quoted Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, president of the United Opposition.

The call came as the Foreign Affairs department 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 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.The Malaya report quoted Binay as saying that 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," Binay was quoted as saying.

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.Trillanes asked the Senate to investigate the Spratly Deal after it was first exposed by Malaya publisher Amado Macasaet. - GMANews.TV from a report by Malaya


6 March 2008

RP may lose Kalayaan islands by default


The Philippines could lose its claimed territories in the South China Sea by default if it fails to pass a new baselines bill as required by the United Nations (UN).

Several congressmen warned Tuesday that if the House of Representatives keeps stalling on the bill defining the country’s territory--to include the disputed Kalayaan Islands Group (KIG)-- it may result in the "forfeiture of our claim to the territory."

To settle the territorial dispute in the South China Sea, the UN required all six claimants - Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, China, Taiwan, Brunei - to pass a law defining their respective "archipelagic baselines".

The deadline is May 2009, a little over one year from now.

House Bill 3216 (the New Baseline Bill), meant to comply with the UN requirement, was passed on second reading last December 13. But the bill has been stalled for three months.

Bayan Muna Rep. Teodoro Casino in Wednesday’s session called on the chamber to schedule its passage. He was seconded by Paranaque Rep. Roilo Golez and South Cotabato Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio.

"How can we defend our territory when we are not defining our territory by a law," Golez said in a House session yesterday. "The legislative (department) is not that fast (in passing bills). We might forfeit our right to claim our territory."

"My concern is urgent," said Custodio. "The fishermen in General Santos and Saranggani actually go out of the supposed territorial boundaries. If we do not lay claim to our territorial boundaries, our neighbors will continue to harass our fishermen all over our territorial waters."
The KIG became a "poblacion" of Palawan in the 1970s.

The House committee on rules will take up on Tuesday Casino’s parliamentary inquiry.


Casino said in a press conference Wednesday that Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Siquijor Rep. Orlando Fua told him that "officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs told Congress not to approve the bill… [because it] conflicts with some international agreements."

In a committee hearing last November, Golez also recalled that DFA officials interjected that the pending bill "might antagonize China ."

This led to "rumors swirling" that "an external force," referring to China , is "preventing" the passage of the bill, Golez said. "We are all curioser and curioser," he said.

Yesterday, Casino and colleague Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo filed House Resolution 496 directing several House committees to investigate the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) entered by President Arroyo in 2004 with China that "reportedly sells out Philippine interests and Philippine sovereignty in exchange for overpriced loans for controversial projects which include the NBN-ZTE Deal, the North Rail and South rail projects, and the Cyber-education projects, among others." The JMSU also includes Vietnam.

Golez and Casino insinuated that the loans may be China's "payment" for "compromising" the country’s territory. "Our territorial integrity is paramount over concessional loans," said Golez.
The House Resolution cited an article in international magazine Far Eastern Economic Review, which accused President Arroyo of "selling out to China the Philippine and regional interests in South China sea" when Manila entered into the JMSU.

The article said that "through its actions, the Arroyo government has given a certain legitimacy to China’s legally spurious ‘historic claim’" to most of the South China Sea .

"This is bordering on treason if an agreement with China will compromise our territory," Casino said.

Spratlys documents destroyed?

Meanwhile, Makati Mayor and United Opposition (UNO) president Jejomar C. Binay today expressed fears that sensitive documents on a "Spratlys deal" between Manila and Beijing may have already been conveniently misplaced or even destroyed, along with those concerning controversial government projects such as the ZTE-national broadband network deal and the Southrail project.

"Under the Arroyo administration, official documents on controversial government deals have a tendency to vanish into thin air," he said.

The opposition leader said documents relevant to the Spratlys deal with China, which allegedly allows Beijing to explore Philippine territorial waters, must be secured immediately, to ensure "that they are not stolen, misplaced, or destroyed.

Binay said he was bothered by reports that the memorandum of agreement (MOA) on the the Chinese-funded Southrail project have not been located by officials of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) and may have been lost.

He also recalled that the original ZTE-NBN contract was reportedly "stolen" in Boao, China.
Rodolfo Lozada Jr. had earlier told the Senate that like the ZTE-NBN deal, the Southrail project was overpriced, and kickbacks were received by administration allies.

Binay had asked the Senate to immediately act on a bill filed by detained Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV to investigate the "Spratlys Deal", which had been described by some sectors as an act of treason.

If Mrs. Arroyo had indeed signed the deal allowing China to explore Philippine territorial waters, "she has effectively given away Philippine sovereignty to a foreign power," Binay said.
Binay said the failure of the PNR to submit the Southrail documents would show that Arroyo's revocation of Executive Order 464 "was a mere PR move to placate the [Catholic] bishops."

"Despite the over-hyped revocation of EO 464, the Southrail case shows that the Arroyo administration is the least interested in cooperating with the Senate, and would do everything to delay or even derail legislative inquiries," he said.

The opposition leader said measures should be taken to ensure that all official documents and contracts remain intact and immediately provided to the proper investigating bodies.

Government officials must be held fully accountable, and if warranted, should be charged with infidelity in the custody of government documents, he added.

Citing newspaper publisher Amado Macasaet, Trillanes said Mrs. Arroyo might have committed treason if she signed the deal which would allow China to explore for oil and gas in the country's territorial waters.

Spratlys deal limited to surveys

But in a March 3 statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the JMSU does not involve oil and gas exploration or exploitation.

"The JMSU is a joint evaluation of marine resources potential in the area claimed by participating countries and is limited to scientific surveys," the DFA said.

"The JMSU does not impinge on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Philippines. Any activity beyond scientific surveys would be subject to further consultation and agreement among the participants, and would have to conform with our constitution and laws," the DFA said.

Friday, February 29, 2008

House to probe 'Spratly deal' between RP, China

Sunstar Manilla

THE House committee on agriculture is looking into the report that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and ousted Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. might have signed a so-called "Spratly deal" with Beijing in exchange for loans involving bribery and corruption, which may include the national broadband network (NBN), the Cyber-Education, and the Northrail deals.

The panel chaired by Palawan Representative Kahlil Abraham Mitra has already started its investigation into the 31 agreements signed by the Philippine and Chinese governments last year, which supposedly would "promote bilateral trade and development in agricultural, fisheries, and food products" in the next 10 years.

The investigation's sponsors, party-list Representatives Cripsin Beltran of Anakpawis and Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel of Akbayan, said they want to find out if the agreements have something to do with the alleged graft-ridden deals with China and if this is connected with the shady Spratly deal that could lead a possible oil exploration by the Chinese on Philippine territorial waters.

The 31 memorandum of agreements (MOA) include the Framework Agreement on Expanding and Deepening Bilateral Economic and Trade Cooperation between RP and China. Beltran said the House must know the agreement's "implications in the economic welfare of Filipinos and their possible violations against provisions in the Philippine Constitution on economic sovereignty and patrimony.

" Based on a position paper by the Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (Ideals), Beltran said the 31 RP-China agreements cover a broad range of obligations which include "questionable financial grants and concessional loans, the undue removal of technical but protective barriers to trade, Chinese investment through the lease of more than 1.5 million hectares of Philippine land, aquaculture and all-around marine fishing, and the utilization of Philippine lands to establish bio-fuel plants to be produced for Chinese consumption."

Reports said Arroyo and de Venecia may have committed treason if the Philippine government signs the Spratly deal and ignoring the fact that all minerals and marine resources are owned by the country whose domain extends 200 nautical miles from its nearest shoreline. A source who supports the deal told Beltran that the mode should be a joint venture, not an executive agreement.

But then a lawyer claimed that a joint venture is a blatant mode of a circumventing the treaty ratification required by the Constitution. The lawyer said a joint venture is not acceptable because it is a commercial transaction while a treaty is a sovereign act that must be ratified by the Senate. Under a treaty required by the Constitution, the Philippines partly or wholly cedes its sovereign rights.

Nueva Ecija Representative Edno Joson said the deal, once signed, could be a culpable violation of the Constitution and could be another ground to impeach the President. During Tuesday's hearing of the agriculture committee, Bayan Muna party-list Representative Teodoro Casiño revealed that the Commission on Audit (COA) has discovered irregularities in various official development assistance (ODA) projects "ranging from non-compliance with the procurement law and auditing rules, unliquidated cash advances, the absence of inventories and overstatement of accounts to project delays involving at least P4.66 billion."

According to COA's 2006 report on ODA, at least 38 out of 47 projects were plagued with irregularities which Casiño said means that "corruption was built into these projects just like the controversial NBN-ZTE and Cyber-Education projects." "ODA has always been regarded by government as development project bonuses with lower interest rates and longer payment terms. But under the Arroyo regime, financial burdens in the form of cost overruns and gross mismanagement beset most ODA projects," he said.

The other COA findings include the following: unliquidated cash advances and fund transfers totaling P1.56 billion; 15 projects lacked inventory-taking, records, reports, property, plant and equipment ledger cards, and non-reconciliation of balances of property, plant and equipment and their respective physical inventory reports totaling P314.46 million; and 14 projects with double-recording of unrecorded/erroneous transactions and understatement/overstatement of various accounts resulting in an overstatement reaching P2.61 billion.

There are also 14 projects violating accounting and auditing rules and regulations, agreements and contracts involving P14.45 million and a delayed

Arroyo recently suspended 11 ODA projects funded by the Chinese government in the wake of the NBN-ZTE scandal. Among these are the NorthRail project, Banaoang Pump Irrigation project, General Santos Fishing Port Complex Expansion/Improvement project, Manila South Railway project phase 1, and Non-Intrusive Container Inspection System project phase 2. (WV/Sunnex)


EU should not entrust aid to Philippines


March 06, 2008

MANILA, Philippines, Anti-corruption watchdogs in Manila last week made an appeal to the leaders of the European Union to wait for the Philippines to elect its next president before giving 61 million euros (US$90.22 million) in aid to the Philippine government.

The request was made in the midst of outrage sweeping across the country against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo because of her role in an allegedly corrupt US$329 million National Broadband Network deal with the ZTE Corp., a firm owned by a giant Chinese corporation.
Bantay Pondo, a rural-led anti-corruption coalition composed of farmers, fisherfolk, peasant women and agricultural workers' organizations signed a petition demanding that the European Union refrain from extending fresh aid to Arroyo, and instead wait for the next elected president.

The group asserted that the US$90 million in aid to the Philippines, which would come from taxes paid by European working people, might be used for corrupt purposes by the incumbent administration, given the Arroyo presidency's record of corruption over the last seven years.
Of the pledged aid, 36 million euros is to be used to deliver basic social services like healthcare, the European Union said. Some 12 million euros will be used to support efforts to bring peace in Mindanao, while 13 million euros will be allotted for trade development.

But Bantay Pondo spokesperson Fernando Hicap predicted that 80 percent of the European funds would go into the pockets of the Arroyo administration and allied politicians and only 20 percent would be used on real projects to show the government spent the funds for the intended beneficiaries.

Bantay Pondo and other critics of the Arroyo administration have asserted that the National Broadband Network scandal involving the president, her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo and other top officials of the government should serve as a stern warning to the European Union that it should not entrust the funds to the present government.

The European Union has poured about 1 billion euros in aid to the Philippines since 1976. Some of these funds have not been audited properly, however.

A report published by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism states that foreign projects in the Philippines funded by official development assistance have encountered a myriad of problems. The report says that 38 foreign-funded projects under the Arroyo administration were checkered with problems including non-compliance with the procurement law, inadequately documented cash advances, lack of inventory, overstatement of accounts and delays.

The projects were all implemented by 20 government agencies and state-owned corporations under the Arroyo presidency. According to the report, the government Commission on Audit found some 1.56 billion pesos (US$38.3 million) from 15 ODA-funded projects inadequately accounted for.

The controversial US$503 million North Railway project funded by the Chinese government was also marred with irregularities such as unexplained cash advances, irregular, unnecessary and uneconomical use of funds, non-compliance with accounting and auditing rules and regulations, delayed completion of projects and a low rate of accomplishment.

Last year the National Economic Development Authority, the government's economic planning agency, revealed that the costs of 21 foreign-assisted projects had soared. The cost of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway project ballooned to 26.33 billion pesos from an original price of
15 billion pesos, for example. This suggests extra spending on kickbacks and commissions to business associates and political allies.

The EU should also take note of the undisclosed Philippines-China Spratly Islands exploration deal, which was approved by the Philippine government in favor of a Chinese oil corporation in exchange for US$4 billion worth of graft-ridden projects to be funded by the Chinese government.

The US$4 billion package from China included the stalled broadband deal, the Cyber Education project, and the North Rail and South Rail projects which are said to be overpriced by hundreds of millions of US dollars.

Given this litany of corruption in the Arroyo administration, the EU is politically, legally and morally obliged to stop granting aid to the present government. The first decisive step for the EU is to recall the 61 million euros in aid to the Arroyo presidency, to ensure that the next president will not be an Arroyo copycat.

(Gerry Albert Corpuz is a correspondent of, an alternative Philippine online news site. He is also head of the information department of Pamalakaya, a national federation of small fisherfolk organizations in the Philippines. His website is, and he can be contacted at ©Copyright Gerry Albert Corpuz.)

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