By Tetch Torres-Tupas, April 10 2019; Philippine Daily Inquirer

Image Credit to Business World

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the government to respond to a petition seeking to strike down its loan agreement  with China for the construction of the P3.69-billion Chico River Pump Irrigation project.

During Wednesday’s en banc session, SC required respondents to submit its comment to the petition filed by senatorial candidate Neri Colmenares together with Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, Anakpawis Rep. Ariel Casilao, Gabriela Reps. Emmy De Jesus and Arlene Brosas, ACT Teachers Reps. Antonio Tinio and Francisca Castro, and Kabataan Rep. Sarah Jane Elago.

Named respondents to the petition were President Rodrigo Duterte, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, National Economic Development Authority head Ernesto Pernia, and Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.

In their petition, Colmenares and the others said the loan agreement violates several provisions of the 1987 Constitution as it contains an express waiver of sovereign immunity  over the country’s patrimonial assets in favor of China.

They cited provisions of the contract showing the government “has allowed its patrimonial assets to stand as security for unpaid obligations under this Loan Agreement. ‘Collateralization’ of patrimonial property for unpaid obligations under a foreign loan contract or as an award in an arbitral proceeding is unconstitutional and illegal.”

“These assailed provisions open the possibility for China to acquire patrimonial properties in the Philippines is tantamount to ceding in favour of China certain territories in the Philippines by virtue of our default in our contractual obligations. This situation obviously impacts negatively on our national sovereignty, territorial integrity, and is inimical to our national interest,” read the petition.

Petitioners said the contract specifically violates Section 2, Article XII of the Charter, which reads: “All lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State. With the exception of agricultural lands, all other natural resources shall not be alienated. The exploration, development, and utilization of natural resources shall be under the full control and supervision of the State.”

They also said assailed provisions of the agreement also violate Section 7, Article II of the Constitution, which states: “The State shall pursue an independent foreign policy. In its relations with other states the paramount consideration shall be national sovereignty, territorial integrity, national interest, and the right to self-determination.” /kga