THE Duterte administration on Friday announced that two concessions in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) were being eyed by the Philippine government for joint exploration with China.
In a news briefing at the Eduardo Cojuangco National Vocational High School in Paniqui, Tarlac, Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said the areas were Service Contract 57, located in Calamian, north west of Palawan, and Service Contract 72, located in the disputed Recto (Reed) Bank.
Roque said both service contracts were within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, and it was still the country’s sovereign decision on whether or not a joint exploration with China should proceed.
Of the two areas, Recto Bank is being disputed by the two countries.
“As far as I know, Service Contract 57 is not affected by any dispute. There, we can have a joint exploration so we can agree [to have a joint exploration]. The problem is in [Service Contract] 72, where there is a dispute,” Roque said.
“Here, an agreement should be completed first before a joint exploration can be continued. However, joint explorations, like the Joint Maritime Seismic Agreement, it would be implemented by corporations and not by sovereign states,” Roque explained.
On Thursday, Roque said the joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea was constitutional after President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday likened the offer of joint exploration to “co-ownership.”
He said joint exploration under Duterte would be different from the Arroyo administration’s Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking, whose constitutionality was questioned before the Supreme Court. The court has yet to rule on the matter.