Upon instructions of outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, the negotiations for a planned joint oil exploration between the Manila and Beijing in the disputed South China Sea have been permanently terminated, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. announced on Thursday (June 23).
In a speech celebrating the 124th founding anniversary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Locsin said that he had obeyed the president’s instruction that the talks on oil and gas exploration are over.
“Three years on and we had not achieved our objective of developing oil and gas resources so critical for the Philippines – but not at the price of sovereignty; not even a particle of it,” Locsin said.
Locsin said that for three years, as the country’s top diplomat, he tried to come to an agreement that would facilitate a joint exploration of, and exploitation of, oil and gas in the West Philippine Sea.
“We got as far as it is constitutionally possible to go. One step forward from where we stood on the edge of the abyss is a drop into constitutional crisis,” Locsin added.
“That explains the sudden pull-back on my part which unraveled three years of sincere hard work on the part of [Chinese Foreign Minister] Wang Yi and me. We had both tried to go as far as we could—without renouncing China’s aspiration on his part; and constitutional limitations on my part. I shut down shop completely,” Locsin further pointed out.
Locsin said that the ball to protect the country’s sovereignty “all the way to the wire” will now rest completely in the new administration’s court.
The countries both have claims over sovereign territories in the West Philippine Sea, with the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea ruled in favor of the Philippines in an arbitration case. But since China refused to recognize the legitimacy of the ruling, the Duterte administration, to a fault, has taken on a soft, even at times cozy, relationship with them.
But towards the end of its term, the Duterte administration has taken on a more robust approach with China, and with less than a week until his term expires, Duterte himself has made the call to scrap the talks.
“Nothing is pending; everything is over,” said Locsin.
Marvin Joseph Ang is a news and creative writer who follows developments in politics, democracy, and popular culture. He advocates for a free press and national democracy. The views expressed are his own.
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