Philippines, China to pursue joint exploration in disputed South China Sea
The Philippines and China will pursue joint exploration in the disputed South China Sea to determine if there is oil, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said on Wednesday.
In a press conference in Hong Kong, Cayetano said during the bilateral meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Tuesday at the sidelines of the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan, it was the Chinese leader who brought up the South China Sea issue.
"So he (Xi) did mention that if the Philippines would consider joint exploration, we're sticking to exploration first. We're not discussing development yet..so basically that's where President Xi stopped in saying that China, if that's what the Philippines wants, is willing to discuss and find a solution in that area," he said.
"And that's where President Duterte jumped in to say, 'you know that it's important that our people see the benefit of our relationship. It's important that we get something out there'," he added.
"But you know it's clear to both sides that we'll stick to our guns. We'll stick to our claims and let's see how we can get anything from there," Cayetano explained.
He said the statements of the two leaders were important because "it's basically the go signal to come up with a framework and if it's acceptable to both sides, then we can see the joint exploration done soon."
He stressed it is important to finalize an agreement between the two countries to have joint exploration because Malampaya's natural gas off Palawan is running out of gas in a couple of years.
Cayetano said if the legal minds from the DFA, Department of Energy, Malacanang and other consultants could "come up with a framework tomorrow, I will send that (proposal) to the Chinese tomorrow."
"If they can send it back to us the next day and they say they agree, you know we can start drafting the MOU (memorandum of understanding) or the agreement and vetting it for official okay," he said.
But Cayetano assured that any agreement the Philippines would enter into with China would be in accordance with the law and morality. Celerina Monte/DMS