By Roy Mabasa
Ranking officials from Manila and Beijing have jointly convened the first meeting of the Philippines-China Inter-Governmental Joint Steering Committee on Cooperation on Oil and Gas Development, a move aimed to promote peace and stability in the volatile South China Sea.
The meeting was held less than a year after a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on oil and gas development and cooperation was signed in Manila by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
Under the memorandum, the two governments were mandated to establish an Inter-Governmental Joint Steering Committee and one or more Inter-Entrepreneurial Working Group to be co-chaired by the Foreign Ministries, and co-vice chaired by the Energy Ministries, with the participation of relevant agencies of the two governments, with an equal number of members nominated by the two governments.
DFA Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo led the Philippine contingent while Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui headed the Chinese delegation in a bilateral consultation meeting that was held Beijing starting Monday.
“The Committee had a candid, in-depth and friendly exchange on cooperation arrangements under the MOU and agreed to further push forward communication and coordination on oil and gas development, with a view to achieving progress in accordance with the MOU,” the Philippines and Chinese delegations said in a joint statement released only on Wednesday.
Both sides agreed to hold the second meeting of the Committee in Manila in early 2020.
Manalo was joined in the meeting by DFA Assistant Secretary for Maritime and Ocean Affairs Generoso DG. Calonge and Energy Undersecretary Donato Marcos.
Manila and Beijing have agreed to a joint exploration deal during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Manila on November 20, 2018.