Philippines open to joint explorations with China amid sea dispute

·Contributor
·3 min read
MARIVELES, PHILIPPINES - MAY 18: Filipino fishermen prepare their boat to sail to the West Philippine Sea despite harassment by Chinese militia and coast guard in the disputed waters on May 18, 2021 in Mariveles, Bataan, west of Luzon in the Philippines. Local fishermen bewail the Philippines lackluster stance on its claim of the West Philippine Sea waters against China's incursion, and are continuing to fish as long as they legally can. Fishermen also expressed disappointed at a recent remark by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, that retaking of West Philippine Sea was never his campaign promise. Prior to Duterte's presidency, the Philippines won a landmark arbitral case against China in 2016, which invalidated the the latter's claims in the South China Sea including islands and shoals within the country's 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. (PHOTO: Jes Aznar/Getty Images)
MARIVELES, PHILIPPINES - MAY 18: Filipino fishermen prepare their boat to sail to the West Philippine Sea despite harassment by Chinese militia and coast guard in the disputed waters on May 18, 2021 in Mariveles, Bataan, west of Luzon in the Philippines. Local fishermen bewail the Philippines lackluster stance on its claim of the West Philippine Sea waters against China's incursion, and are continuing to fish as long as they legally can. Fishermen also expressed disappointed at a recent remark by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, that retaking of West Philippine Sea was never his campaign promise. Prior to Duterte's presidency, the Philippines won a landmark arbitral case against China in 2016, which invalidated the the latter's claims in the South China Sea including islands and shoals within the country's 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone. (PHOTO: Jes Aznar/Getty Images)

The Philippines has once again expressed interest in joint oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea with China, despite Beijing continually ignoring the Manila’s territorial claims on the disputed sea as ruled by The Hague.

During the Commission on Appointments (CA) foreign affairs committee hearing on Wednesday (Aug 31), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Enrique Manalo said that the Philippines will need oil and gas in the long run amid skyrocketing prices.

"We have indicated to China our willingness to continue or to re-open talks sa oil and gas. Kasi (Because) we realized na (that) especially now, ‘yung energy crunch at saka ‘yung nangyayari ngayon sa around the world (with the energy crunch and everything that’s happening around the world), we really have to develop our resources,” Manalo said.

He added that the government “will be guided by our laws and our constitution" should it push through with negotiation talks with China.

Meanwhile, Senator Grace Poe asked the DFA chief if there were other countries or private firms other than China that is interested in the joint exploration.

“If we agree to their terms, would it pose a delicate situation with China? Are we, in a way, secretly bound with an agreement with China?” Poe asked.

Manalo noted that currently, only China is interested in joint oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea as Russia has backed out in the past.

“If we’re talking about oil and gas in the South China Sea, we will try and see other partners. So far, we have not received any offers,” said Manalo, adding that only China and Chinese companies are interested presently.

Asked about the harassment of Filipino fishermen by Chinese vessels, Manalo assured that the DFA will “try and coordinate with other agencies” to help protect the fishermen.

“Certainly, there’s a commitment for us to help our fishermen. Of course, it’s not only Department of Foreign Affairs but we will try and coordinate with the other agencies to ensure that our fishermen’s livelihood is increased and maintained,” the secretary said.

On June 2021, China has passed a law authorizing its coast guard to fire on foreign vessels and destroy other countries’ structures on the West Philippine Sea.

China’s Coast Guard Law states that the force must “take all necessary measures, including the use of weapons, when national sovereignty, sovereign rights, and jurisdiction are being illegally infringed upon by foreign organizations or individuals at sea.”

The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands has already ruled in favor of the Philippines in 2016, citing China’s lack of legal basis for its claim to historic rights over the Philippine Sea.

This was subsequently rejected by Chinese President Xi Jinping, further militarizing the West Philippine Sea with Chinese coast guards.

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. She advocates for animal welfare and press freedom. Follow her on Twitter @polarubyo for regular news and cat postings. The views expressed are her own.

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