MANILA, Philippines — The joint oil and gas exploration deal between the Philippines and China would not compromise Manila’s historic arbitral win, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Wednesday.
Locsin, in an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel, assured that the “memorandum on oil and gas precisely makes it unnecessary to set aside the arbitral ruling.”
In July 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands decided in favor of the Philippines’s case against China, invalidating Beijing’s nine-dash line that claims almost the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.
During President Rodrigo Duterte’s fifth visit to China in August, the Philippines and China agreed to form groups that would finalize the possible agreements on the joint oil and gas exploration in specific areas in the West Philippine Sea.
The two countries have also agreed on the terms of reference for the possible joint exploration pact.
“The terms of reference really just fleshes out the memorandum of agreement which is very clear: no legal position of either side is compromised when you enter into this agreement,” Locsin said.
According to Locsin, the agreement between both countries “does not refer to some of the areas proposed by China, which is well within our territory.”
He added that the agreement would only cover areas with service contracts.
“There are, I think, three or four of them,” he noted.
“And if the area chosen is a disputed area, but there is no service contract, then it’s still the same, the memorandum of agreement prevails,” he added.
Under the memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the joint oil and gas exploration, Locsin said a steering committee would be created.
The MOU was signed by the Philippines and China last year.
Locsin explained that the committee would be “responsible for negotiating and agreeing on the cooperation agreements already between real parties.”
“With that, we constitute the number and the working area of the working groups who will be under us. This is already the private sector,” he also said.
The committee, according to Locsin, would comprise of himself as foreign affairs chief and officials from the Department of Energy, Department of Justice, Department of Justice, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources on the Philippine side.
Meanwhile, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi would also sit in the committee as well as Chinese counterparts of the stated Philippine agencies. /kga
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