Senators say PH can’t make deals on territorial claims without clearance from Congress

MANILA  – Senators cautioned the Aquino administration on Monday about entering into any agreement with other countries that would affect the country’s territorial claims without seeking Congress’ approval.

Senators Sergio Osmeña III and Ralph Recto said that the Department of Foreign Affairs should have first consulted with lawmakers before negotiating with Malaysia on the Philippines pursuit of its territorial claims in the extended continental shelf (ECS) in the West Philippine Sea.

“Any treaty must undergo Senate oversight and approval. It might even require an amendment to our Constitution,” said Osmeña.

Recto said: “I don’t think that is just for the executive to decide. Congress should be consulted on the matter.”

Recto did not say if he supported or oppose the alleged swap offer of the Philippines wherein Malaysia would drop its claims to disputed territories in the West Philippine Sea in exchange for the Philippines dropping its claim to Sabah.

But Osmeña said the proposal, if true, would benefit both the Philippines and Malaysia.

“It’s an acceptable gambit and letter proposals such as that are not usually sent unless there have been preliminary talks on the issue and there is some chance of approval,” said Osmeña.

However, Osmeña cautioned that by offering quid pro quo arrangements with other country-claimants in the ECS, the Philippines could be putting itself in a vulnerable position.

“Tactically, it would weaken the government’s position on the West Philippine Sea situation,” said Osmeña.