PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte is open to lifting the moratorium on oil exploration at the West Philippine Sea.
Duterte raised the possibility a week after he met with People’s Republic of China Premier Li Keqiang who, in a joint statement, said that the two countries “may explore means to cooperate with each other in other possible maritime activities, including maritime oil and gas exploration and exploitation.”
“It’s one of the possibilities that will happen or can happen or will happen sa [in]South China Sea. There’s really…it’s an area too big. But I think the players there would really be the Asean members who are also claimants,” Duterte said.
Duterte, however, clarified that he would only lift the moratorium for the benefit of the country.
“I will only lift it when I think the higher interest of the Philippines is served,” Duterte added.
Last November 7, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said that the moratorium on oil drilling on the West Philippine Sea would stay even amid improved relations between the Philippines and China under the Duterte administration.
The Philippines and China are disputing territories in the South China Sea.
The Philippines claim is based on the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone provided under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) while China is using the nine-dash line map it has drawn indicating the communist country’s sovereignty and control over all features, land, water, and seabed within the area covered by the nine-dash line.
The Philippines won a case against China on July 2016 when the Hague-based United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled that the Spratly Islands, Panganiban (Mischief) Reef, Ayungin (Second Thomas) Shoal and Recto (Reed) Bank were all within the Philippines’ EEZ.
Other claimants in the South China Sea aside from the Philippines and China are: Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei and Taiwan.
The Philippines enforces the “one China policy”, holding official diplomatic relations with Beijing, which considers Taiwan a province of the communist state.
“Almost all claimants are within the Asean, so probably, the projection is we jointly explore what we can extract…the valuable minerals, aside from ores, that’s what they (China) are looking at,” Duterte added.