Recalling JMSU

Coverage of the Philippine-China-Vietnam Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking

The Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking, JMSU for short, is
back in the news.

It was mentioned by former president Gloria Arroyo and her
executive secretary, Eduardo Ermita, to stress that cooperation with China in
South China Sea is possible during the launch of the book, “The Ocean Space or
the Maritime Area of the Philippines,” a primer on the law of the sea, at
the House of Representatives, where Arroyo is a currently a member.

The primer, published by the University of the Philippines,
is timely at this time when the Philippines, under President Duterte has
reconciled with China, in contrast to the toxic relations during the Aquino

During the press conference Arroyo said, “The language, it
was without prejudice to the filing of a protest. And since it was just a
research survey, it does not affect the respective positions of the countries
on issues related to the claim.”

Ermita said there was no conflict among claimant countries
then because of the signing of the JMSU.

It’s good that the public’s mind be refreshed about
JMSU.A brainchild by then House Speaker
Jose de Venecia, originally it was only between China and the Philippines and
the term used was “exploration.”

Then acting Justice Secretary Merceditas Gutierrez warned De
Venecia and the DFA the Constitutional provision that “exploration” of
Philippine natural resources can only bedone by the State. They were able to find a way to circumvent that
provision by using the word “seismic undertaking.” Vietnam, which also claims
parts of the area to be covered by the deal, later on joined the project.
Findings in that “seismic undertaking” were supposed to be used in the next
phase of the cooperation which was joint development.

Signed in 2005, the agreement involvedthe PNOC, the China National Offshore Oil Co.
(CNOOC) and Vietnam Oil and Gas Corp. (PetroVietnam). It covered a total
142,886 kilometers in the disputed South China Sea and included almost 80
percent of the Kalayaan Group which the Philippines claims. Reed Bank near
Palawan was also included.

There’s a dark story behind the JMSU.

It was connected to the $904.38 millionpackage of investment from China that
included the graft-ridden Northrail, NBN-ZTE telecommunications deal and
Zhongxing Technology Equipment (ZTE) Diwalwal mining project.

So important were the deals that Arroyo had to leave the
bedside of the sick Mike Arroyo at St
Luke’s Hospital and flew to Boao, China to witness the signing of the agreement
for the jumbo loans.

Malacanang’s press release aptly described Arroyo’s quick
trip to Boao thus: “That’s the way things looked like for President Gloria
Macapagal-Arroyo in her brief stay in this picturesque coastal town Saturday as
she ‘came and went like a thief in the night,’ bringing with her an avalanche
of Chinese investments to the tune of $904.38 million.”

China made it clear to Philippine officials that that
multi-million package would be delivered only if JMSU pushed through.

JMSU was completed in 2007. We have been trying to follow up
the results of the survey but we were told that what the Chinese shared with the
Philippines was “hazy.’

In 2008, Bayan Muna partylist questioned the JMSU’s legality
before the Supreme Court, which has not released its decision up to now.