President Rodrigo Duterte is open to a joint exploration in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) not only with China but also with other “foreign entities,” Malacañang said on Thursday.
In a statement, Palace spokesman Ernesto Abella said the President is “open to broader options for partnerships” with other countries.
“The President is open to possible cooperation with foreign entities in exploring and extracting mineral and gas resources in the West Philippine Sea,” Abella said. “We are not limiting ourselves to exclusive economic relationships.”
He added that any joint exploration deal must not violate the Constitution.
Abella issued the statement after Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano admitted on Wednesday that Duterte has given the green light to pursue joint explorations with China.
“The instructions to us is to move ahead,” Cayetano told reporters. “It’s a directive of the President and we need it because Malampaya will run out in hopefully, not less than a decade.”
Duterte earlier announced that the Philippines entered into a joint venture agreement with China in extracting mineral and gas resources in the contested waters.
On the sidelines of his second State of the Nation Address on July 24, the President said the emissaries of the two countries were negotiating to come up with a target date.
“We are there already. We already have a partner but I don’t know who. Our emissaries, as well as theirs, are already there. They are talking and they are exploring,” Duterte said.
“When they start to excavate the gas and all, I tell you, it’s going to be just like a joint venture. So it will be fair,” he added.
The Philippines has maintained a “non-adversarial” approach in addressing the maritime conflict with China even after winning a favorable ruling from an international tribunal.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands had ruled that China has no basis to claim most parts of the disputed waters.
Despite the ruling, Duterte said the Philippines will not invoke it because the country is not ready to go to war with a bigger nation.