China backs joint oil drilling with PH in disputed sea

by Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Philip C. Tubeza / Philippine Daily Inquirer / 07:28 AM July 26, 2017

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday said that he supported the idea of joint energy exploration with the Philippines in the heavily disputed South China Sea, warning that unilateral action could cause problems and damage to both sides.

Wang, on a two-day visit to Manila, made the remarks after President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said that a partner had been found to develop oil fields and exploration and exploitation would restart this year.

Mr. Duterte did not identify the partner in his policy speech to a joint session of Congress.

“They’re not yet [in] but we are into it already. We are there already, with a partner. I just can’t divulge it. What’s ours and theirs are already there. They are talking and they are exploring,” he said.

Before end of year

The Department of Energy said on July 12 that drilling at Recto Bank, a large tablemount in the South China Sea internationally known as Reed Bank, might resume before yearend, and the government was preparing to offer new blocks to investors in bidding in December.

Wang and Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano brushed aside legal complications of joint exploration and agreed that Mr. Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping were reviving talks for joint development first suggested by Beijing in the late 1980s.

“The natural phase two of a better relationship and environment of dialogue, peace and stability is seeking to be able to use those natural resources to benefit your people,” Cayetano said in a joint news conference with Wang.

He said Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping suggested joint development to President Corazon Aquino in 1986.

“But in the 31 years of discussion, we have not found the wisdom to be able to push through to the next step. We are praying that this generation under President Xi and under President Duterte will have the wisdom to find a way for these natural resources to benefit our people,” he said.

No unilateral action

Wang said China was open to joint exploration but warned against “unilateral development” by rival claimants to territory in the South China Sea.Read more…

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