By Genalyn Kabiling
The Philippines is willing to hold a dialogue with China on a proposed joint oil exploration in the South China Sea to discuss any concern about such venture.
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said the two countries, being friends, could discuss the matter after President Duterte mentioned China is now unlikely to agree with the 60-40 sharing deal of resources.
Panelo said the two parties could tackle formally whether or not they are still interested in conducting joint oil exploration.
“Not necessarily. We can still discuss everything,” Panelo said in Filipino during a Palace press briefing when asked if the joint exploration deal with China is now off the table.
Asked if the country is still counting on the joint exploration deal with China, Panelo said: “Why not? As they say, we are friends so let’s talk about it. What don’t you like about it? Before you were amenable. They might have a reason for it.”
Asked if the oil exploration deal between the Philippines and China is possible within Duterte’s term, Panelo said: “It can still be done. We will continue to talk since we are friends.”
Last week, the President revealed that China might no longer agree with the sharing arrangement on the joint oil exploration with the Philippines.
“They are willing now to share sana, 60-40. I do not think they will agree now,” Duterte said in an interview with reporters in Malacañang last Thursday.
Duterte said he noticed that no one was talking about the proposed oil exploration deal since he proposed the 60-40 venture months ago.
“Since I cannot assert jurisdiction, sabi ko hati na lang noon. Pumayag na sila. Sabi nila, ‘Para sa iyo, Mayor, 60-40 papayag kami.’ Ngayon, nobody’s talking about it [I said let’s split the resources. They agreed and said, ‘For you Mayor, we will agree with 60-40.’ Now, nobody’s talking about it],” he said.
In 2018, the Philippines signed a pact with China to negotiate a possible oil and gas exploration in the future. The Palace has repeatedly assured the public that any oil exploration deal with China would be constitutional and beneficial to the nation.
Duterte earlier told Chinese President Xi Jinping about his government’s plans to dig oil in the South China Sea during their meeting in Beijing. Xi, however, reminded Duterte not to stir up “trouble” in the region.
The two leaders instead agreed to focus on cooperative ventures on enhancing economic relations such as the joint oil exploration.