2005 marine seismic undertaking of PH, China and Vietnam unconstitutional – SC

After 14 years, the Supreme Court (SC) issued a decision declaring that the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) of the Philippines, China, and Vietnam which was formed in 2005 and ended in 2008, is unconstitutional.

In a 12-2-1 vote, the SC En Banc ruled that it is unconstitutional to allow foreign corporations to participate in the exploration or discovery of the country’s natural resources.


In a press briefer on Tuesday, the SC said that the JMSU was clearly conducted to determine whether there was oil in the area surveyed.

JMSU is an agreement of the Philippine National Oil Company, China National Offshore Oil Corp., and Vietnam Oil Gas Corp. regarding oil explorations in the West Philippine Sea covering 142,886 square kilometers.

JMSU was formed in 2005 and ended on June 30, 2008.


The SC cited a portion of the JMSU that said the parties “expressed desire to engage in a joint research of petroleum resource potential of a certain area of ​​the South China Sea as a pre-exploration activity.”

2005 marine seismic undertaking of PH, China and Vietnam unconstitutional – SC

“That the Parties designated the joint research as a ‘pre-exploration activity’ is of no moment… Such designation does not detract from the fact that the intent and aim of the agreement is to discover petroleum, which is tantamount to exploration,” added yet of SC.

“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,” it added.


The decision was based on a petition filed in May 2008 by then Bayan Muna Party-List representatives Satur Ocampo and Teodor Casiño, claiming the agreement was unconstitutional.

The decision was penned by Associate Justice Samuel Gaerlan. Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo and 10 other associate justices concurred with the decision.

Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier and Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda dissented, while Associate Justice Ramo Paul Hernando was on leave and did not vote.

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