China will be ‘good neighbor’ to PH amid joint exploration talks – DFA chief

Published August 31, 2018, 9:33 AM

by AJ Siytangco

By Ellson Quismorio

Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano expressed confidence Thursday that China itself would see to it that the result of the joint exploration talks over the West Philippine Sea (WPS) would be favorable to the Philippines.

Senator Alan Peter Cayetano answers questions from members of the media during an ambush interview following the recommendation by the Commission on Appointments Foreign Affairs Committee of his confirmation as DFA Secretary at the Office of the Senate in Pasay City on Wednesday. (JAY GANZON / MANILA BULLETIN)
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the DFA’s budget deliberation at the House of Representatives, Cayetano anchored this belief on the notion that China is a “good neighbor.”

“I can confirm to you that our starting proposition is 60-40 [percent], in our favor. And they are open to it,” Cayetano said of China.

“They haven’t said ‘yes’ to it but they are open to it because they know that part of being a good neighbor is understanding our present situation. It will be a big boost to our economy,” he added.

Earlier this month, the DFA said the Philippines has proposed a 60-40 sharing agreement on the joint exploration of the resource-rich WPS, which is part of the bigger South China Sea.

Beijing has a blanket claim over the entire body of water. It’s expansive claim has led to longstanding territorial disputes at-sea with smaller, neighboring countries, including the Philippines.

Cayetano thinks regional power China fully understands the Philippines’ current situation in that it is more in need of the potential benefits of such joint exploration.

“If this was the 1960s, baka mas kailangan nila kaysa sa atin (Maybe China would need it more). Don’t get me wrong, both countries need this and want it. But who needs it more at this point in time?

“In the present day, maganda ang takbo ng ekonomiya, pero marami pa ring mahirap, maraming tinatamaan ng mahal na presyo (the economy is good but there are still a lot of poor people, many suffer from expensive prices). The oil and gas that can be produced [from the WPS] would be of immense help to our people,” the DFA chief said.

“So the only thing we have to safeguard is we don’t get the oil and gas na ang kapalit naman ay sovereignty natin (in exchange for our sovereignty).”

President Duterte is credited with revitalizing the country’s ties with China after it soured during the past administration as a result of the maritime disputes.

Cayetano said that Duterte’s visits to China have all given immense benefit to the Philippines.

Asked about the current stage of the negotiation of the joint exploration, Cayetano said: “We agreed not to put any deadline, but to work with ‘as soon as possible attitude’ in coming up with a legal framework.”

“[This] framework would most likely point to commercial entities who will now negotiate with each other from the Chinese and Philippine sides,” he explained.