PH, China oil pact still a go
BEIJING—Notwithstanding “intense” diplomatic discussions to ease tension in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippines and China are “moving forward” when it comes to negotiations on the proposed joint oil and gas exploration.
A basic memorandum of understanding (MOU) on joint exploration had been signed in Manila as part of bilateral outcomes last year when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Philippines. However, both parties still need to turn the MOU into a more concrete agreement and framework.
It will still take “many steps” to finalize any agreement coming from the MOU, Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana told visiting reporters on Wednesday.
The exploration framework will not likely be finalized during the visit of President Duterte to the Chinese capital this week for the Belt and Road Forum, Sta. Romana said, but he noted that discussions on the oil exploration were “moving forward.”
The disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea are likewise the most promising when it comes to oil and gas reserves.
Since repairing diplomatic ties with China when he became president in 2016, Mr. Duterte has adopted a two-track strategy in dealing with China.
“As you know, our bilateral relations basically consist of two general areas—the disputes and the areas where there are no disputes. The disputes do not define everything. They’re only a part of the overall picture. So where there are no disputes, like trade, economics, science, culture, we’re able to fast-track,” Sta. Romana said. “Where there are disputes, we discuss through diplomatic channels or through the bilateral consultative mechanism.”
The MOU signed last year stated that any joint oil and gas exploration between the Philippines and China should be in accordance with the principles of “mutual respect, fairness and mutual benefit, flexibility and pragmatism and friendly consultations.”
Both the Philippines and China also agreed that the joint oil and gas exploration should not affect the respective position on sovereignty and maritime rights and interests of both parties.
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