THE PHILIPPINES and China have yet to make progress in oil and gas exploration talks on the South China Sea, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Monday.
“The official talks have not gone beyond initial discussions, which were done during the visits of State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang [Yi] and International Department of Communist Party of China Minister Liu [Jianchao],” Philippine Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ma. Teresita C. Daza said in a WhatsApp message to reporters.
“There have been no working-level talks,” she added, adding that no discussions have been made on the issue of profit-sharing.
At a House of Representatives hearing last week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique A. Manalo said China was pushing a 50-50% or 51-49% division rather than a 60-40% sharing agreement in favor of the Philippines. It also sought to apply conditions in accordance with Chinese domestic laws that were unacceptable to the Philippines.
“So those negotiations ended, and no agreement was reached, and as of now, nothing has happened,” he said.
The South China Sea, a key global shipping route, is subject to overlapping territorial claims involving China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam. Each year, trillions of dollars of trade flow through the sea, which is also rich in fish and gas.
Ms. Daza said the Philippines approaches these matters with its national interest in mind.
“We wish to build on the gains that have been reached in principle by our predecessors under a new, mutually agreeable framework,” she said, citing the need to ensure that deals are in line with the Philippine Constitution and international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and 2016 arbitration award.
Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario on Sunday said the Philippines should just proceed with oil and gas exploration without China.
“At this time of increasing energy prices besetting the lives of our countrymen, political will is needed to enforce our rights over the oil and gas in the West Philippine Sea, so that our country will be able to benefit from new energy sources,” he said in a statement.
“The Philippines should proceed to explore and develop the oil and gas in the West Philippine Sea, despite threats and harassment from China,” he added.
He said Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. would find the political will to find new energy sources to support the country in the coming years.
Mr. Marcos has said former President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s nonconfrontational stance with China was “the right way.” He also said he would pursue an independent foreign policy.
“In general, our relations with China are important and we explore all avenues of cooperation that could be mutually beneficial for both our countries,” Ms. Daza said.
“This matter only comprises one aspect of Philippines-China relations,” she said “As such, the department will continue to coordinate with the concerned national agencies and our Chinese counterparts on developing our relations.”
The Duterte government terminated oil and gas exploration talks with China after failing to reach a deal after years of negotiations.
“Nothing is pending; everything is over,” former Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr., who is now Philippine ambassador to Britain, earlier said. “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.” — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan