By Genalyn Kabiling / April 10, 2018 / Manila Bulletin
BOAO, China – The Philippines is trying to finalize a joint sea exploration agreement with China in the next couple of months, the Philippine ambassador to China said Monday.
Amb. Jose Santiago Sta. Romana said negotiations are ongoing to find a common legal framework to conduct joint mineral exploration in the South China Sea.
“Well, I think the best estimate I’ve gotten is from Secretary Cayetano – that, we’re trying to see if we can achieve an agreement. Hopefully, within the next couple of months,” Sta. Romana said during an interview with reporters here ahead of President Duterte’s attendance to the Boao Forum for Asia annual conference.
“But as always, you know, negotiations you can never predict if it’s necessary to take a longer time, we’ll take our time as long as we can meet our objectives,” he added.
Sta. Romana recognized that both sides were aware of certain parameters on the planned oil and gas exploration.
For the Philippines, Sta. Romana said any agreement to jointly explore the sea with China must be “within our Constitutional requirements and our legal requirements.” It must also “stand public scrutiny” and must be “acceptable to the Filipino people,” he said.
“The basic point we’re trying to achieve is to find a way to be able to enhance our energy security, to solve our crying need for energy in a way that we can achieve it in a peaceful – with a peaceful and diplomatic solution so that we can finally explore and develop the resources that belong to us and avoid making it a source of conflict,” he said.
The ambassador emphasized that there was “political willingness on both sides to try to achieve an agreement as soon as possible.”
“And this is what we’re trying to do and that is why we are exploring you know, a suitable framework that will be acceptable to both sides,” he said.“What could happen will be a continuing discussion on this but I don’t… there will be no agreement to be signed on that regard this time,” he added.
The Philippines and China earlier agreed on “prudent” cooperation joint sea exploration despite an ongoing dispute over the strategic waterway.
The government was considering two areas for joint exploration with China, including one in territory that the nations have argued over for years. These are service contract 57, located west of the Calamian Islands in Palawan, and service contract 72 which covers Reed Bank, both claimed by the Philippines and China.
In another sign of improving bilateral relations, the Philippines and China are expected to forge an agreement allowing the entry of more Filipino teachers of the English language to China.
The labor pact will be among the bilateral agreements to be signed during President Duterte’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping today, said Sta. Romana. Read more…