Possible joint exploration deal won't affect SCS claims: PH, China

By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

April 12, 2018, 2:13 pm

MANILA -- The Philippines and China committed that any joint exploration deal that may be agreed upon by the two countries in the disputed parts of South China Sea will have no effect on both sides' claims in the area.

This was cleared by DFA Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano and China Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang in a separate press briefing on Wednesday.

During a bilateral meeting between President Rodrigo Duterte and President Xi Jinping on Tuesday, Cayetano said the two leaders have basically given a "go signal" to come up with a framework.

If the crafted document would be acceptable to both sides, "then we could see the joint exploration done soon," he said.

Cayetano said it was clear to both countries that Manila would stick to its claims.

This was also the case for Beijing, but from this point, the Filipino diplomat said the two sides would exert efforts to find a solution and see how both could benefit from current positions in the issue.

For his part, Geng said China remains committed to peacefully resolving the South China Sea dispute with parties directly concerned through negotiation and consultation.

"Pending final settlement, China would like to conduct practical cooperation in various fields with parties concerned, including under the principle of shelving differences and seeking joint development," he said.

"Joint development will not affect the legal position of either side on the relevant issue," he added.

While depth of a possible agreement was not yet discussed during Duterte and Xi's meeting, Cayetano said the "exploration" would involve finding out availability of resources in the area first.

"Exploration is simply seeing what’s there. It’s a research work, right? Finding out how much oil, how much gas if any is there," he explained.

Cayetano stressed that the development itself will only materialize once the partnership is confirmed "viable" and when the resources are concluded of commercial quality and quantity.

"From there, that’s the only time that you have to think about development you know," he pointed out.

Given the number of littoral states contesting various parts of the sea lane, Cayetano assured that the site eyed for exploration is only disputed by the Philippines and China.

"I have talked to other countries about it including the other claimants, and have assured them that we will talk to China in areas that the dispute is only between the Philippines and China," he said.

If the area happened to be disputed by other claimants, he assured that the involved nation will not be bypassed.

"We will not make any enemies. Now we are building friendship with everyone," he said. (PNA)