The ongoing maritime row between the Philippines and China will not hinder plan to possibly hold a joint exploration for oil and gas resources in the disputed West Philippine Sea (WPS), Malacañang said on Tuesday.
“That’s why there is an agreement that while we have not yet resolved who has sovereign rights in those areas, it might be possible to have joint exploration and exploitation. So those talks are ongoing because in different parts of the world, this kind of issue never became a barrier for countries to benefit from these resources,” Roque said in Filipino in a Palace press briefing.
Roque expressed optimism that the joint exploration agreement would give way to economic activity that would benefit both countries.
“When it comes to joint exploration on seas, there are many models that the countries may follow and we can see that these matters can be discussed between neighbors who are also close friends,” he added in Filipino.
The Philippines and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on joint oil exploration in WPS during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in the Philippines in November 2018.
The MOU is the basis for the two governments to “negotiate on an accelerated basis arrangement to facilitate oil and gas exploration and exploitation in relevant maritime areas consistent with applicable rules of international law”.
The two countries sought the joint exploitation of natural resources in the disputed waters under the proposed 60-40 sharing scheme.
On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands invalidated China’s nine-dash line, a geographical marker Beijing invoked to assert its extensive claims in the strategic waters.
The decision’s enforceability, however, remains nowhere, as China has repudiated the PCA ruling and process, and the United Nations deny that it has anything to do with the ruling.
The Duterte administration has stood pat on its policy to promote Philippine claims and entitlements as well as manage and resolve disputes through “peaceful” means. SOVEREIGNPH