China won't insist for larger share in joint oil exploration with PH in South China Sea - envoy
China would not seek for a higher share in a joint oil and gas exploration and development with the Philippines in the South China Sea, its envoy said on Friday.
In an interview with reporters in Camp Crame in Quezon City, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said Beijing and Manila have signed the memorandum of understanding of joint exploration of oil and gas in the disputed area.
"We have recently concluded the terms of reference with the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) under the guidance of our foreign minister. Based on the MOU, and terms of reference, we are looking very seriously what format we should take in further developing and further implanting the MOU so that we can put our actual activities on joint exploration into reality," he said.
He said it would be up to the companies of respective countries to discuss the sharing agreement on the exploration.
"Whether 60-40 or 39-61, it is up to the enterprises to decide. But there is one thing I can assure, China will not insist on the larger share than that of the Philippines. From the perspective of the government, it is up tp the enterprises of the two sides," Zhao said.
"This is going to be something as for the percentage of share, something that is going to be negotiated and settled by the enterprises concerned from both sides under the guidance of both government and releavat agencies concerned," he added.
President Rodrigo Duterte has said one of the agenda in his upcoming trip to China this month is to discuss possible oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea, with the Philippines getting the 60 percent share.
But Zhao said China would not recognize the July 2016 arbitral ruling, which Duterte is set to raise also with Chinese President Xi Jinping during his visit to Beijing.
"Our position has been clearly stated from the beginning of the file of arbitration, we will not accept it. And not recognize it. That position has not changed and will not be changed," he said.
The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, following a petition by the Philippines, invalidated China's historic and sovereign claim in almost the entire South China Sea, including those areas within the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zones of other claimant countries, such as the Philippines, through its nine-dash line.
The Chinese envoy said the differences over the South China Sea only constitutes "1 percent of our relationship" as he urged the Philippines to focus on the things that would benefit the two countries.
As to the conclusion of a code of conduct in the South China Sea, Zhao denied that China has been delaying it, blaming the other countries, which are not parties to the sea row.
"There is one thing that I would like to assure the Philippine government and Filipino people. It is our determination to seek final and peaceful solution to the differences we have. We are not seeking conflict or trouble, that is for sure. We are now working expeditiously with the Philippines and other Asean countries to formulate code of conduct," he said.
"China was the first to propose to conclude the COC within three years. It is China who is working very hard with the Philippines and other Asean countries to conclude the COC earlier than three years. The statement of our foreign minister has stated very clearly we are not delaying the process, it is someone else in sea and outside sea. Do I have to specify, make your guess," Zhao said.
Duterte has said he would ask Xi to also expedite the completion of the COC to prevent escalation of tension in the disputed waters.
While negotiations for the COC have been ongoing, China has continued with its activities in the disputed sea, such as further strengthening of its artificial islands and deployment of more ships even within the EEZ of other claimants like the Philippines.
Aside from the Philippines and China, other claimants in the South China Sea are Brunei, Malaysia, and Vietnam, all members of Asean, and Taiwan. Celerina Monte/DMS