China’s foreign ministry is adamant that a joint energy exploration and development between Beijing and Manila in the disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) is the right move forward to manage their maritime differences.
“Joint offshore oil and gas development is the right way for China and the Philippines to manage maritime differences and achieve win-win results without prejudicing either side’s maritime positions and claims,” China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Friday, June 24, during his regular presser with local and foreign media.
He stressed that leaders of both countries had already reached an “important common understanding” on this issue even as Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. abandoned energy exploration talks with China over an order from President Duterte.
Wang reminded that China and the Philippines signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation on Oil and Gas Development and “have actively pursued negotiations and made important progress within this framework.”
“China stands ready to work in concert with the new Philippine government to advance negotiations on joint development and strive to take early substantive steps to deliver tangible benefits to both countries and peoples,” he said.
Duterte has taken a softer approach to Beijing despite the 2016 Hague ruling that invalidated the basis of China’s sweeping claims in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea.
But in October 2020, he allowed Philippines companies to resume drilling off the country, less than two years from when Manila signed an agreement with Beijing for cooperation on oil and gas development to benefit from the water’s resources while setting aside the matter of territorial disputes.
However, Locsin insisted that he had tried to agree to facilitate exploration “for three years.”
“We got as far as it is constitutionally possible to go,” he said, adding that the objective of developing oil and gas for the country will not come “at the price of sovereignty; not even a particle of it.”
China and the Philippines had been locked in a dispute for a decade over the resource-rich region that China claims wholly.