INQUIRER.NET

Palace: 2 areas in West PH Sea possible for joint study with China

Seen behind a Philippine flag, the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson anchors off Manila during a five-day port call along with guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. More than 5,000 sailors and crew make up the Carrier Strike Group 1 with the USS Carl Vinson boosting its fleet with strike fighters, airborne early warning aircrafts, helicopters and other air assets as they are deployed in the seas off Western Pacific. (Photo by BULLIT MARQUEZ / AP)

Two areas in the West Philippine Sea are being considered for possible joint explorations between the Philippines and China, Malacañang said on Friday.

“Well, ang alam ko po meron dalawang area na kinokonsidera for joint exploration. Pero lahat po dito nasa exclusive economic zone,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said in a briefing in Paniqui, Tarlac.

(As far as I know, there are two areas that are being considered for joint exploration. But all of these are within the exclusive economic zone.)

Roque said the two areas were covered by Service Contracts 57 and 72.

“So, dalawang area po ‘yan. Kung hindi ako nagkakamali yung tinanatawag nilang Service Contract 57 at Service Contract 72. Now, ang alam ko, ang Service Contact 57 hindi po apektado ‘yan ng any dispute so diyan po pupuwedeng magkaroon ng joint exploration, walang dispute, so pumapayag lang tayo,” he said.

(There are two areas. If I’m not mistaken these are what they called Service Contract 57 and Service Contract 72. Now what I know the Service Contract 57 is not affected by any dispute so I think joint exploration can be done there, no dispute, so we just agree.)

He, however, said Service Contract 72 is being disputed.

“Ang problema po ‘yang 72 may dispute so kinakailangan magkaroon muna ng kasunduan ang dalawang bansa bago matuloy itong joint exploration na ito pero ang joint exploration gaya nung nangyari nung Joint Maritime Seismic Agreement, it would be implemented by corporations and not sovereign states,” he said.

(The problem with 72 is that there is a dispute so we, the two countries, need to have an agreement first before we pursue with the joint exploration just like what happened in the Joint Maritime Seismic Agreement.)

According to the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC), Service Contract 57 is a joint exploration that would take place offshore Calamian in northwestern Palawan while Service Contract 72, is a joint exploration at the Recto Bank (Reed Bank), which is being claimed by the Philippines and China.

SC 57 was awarded to PNOC-Exploration Corporation by the DOE in September 2006 but has been delayed due to administrative issues.

The joint venture included state-run PNOC Exploration Corporation, Mitra Energy Ltd. (now Jadestone Energy Inc.), and China National Offshore Oil Co. (CNOOC).

President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to sign the deed of assignment to formalize their entry.

SC 72, meanwhile, is a joint exploration at the Recto Bank (Reed Bank), which is being claimed by the Philippines and China.

Reed bank is located 200-nautical mile (370-kilometer) exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.

SC 72 was awarded to Forum Energy, a subsidiary of the Manuel Pangilinan-led Philex Petroleum Corporation.

The administration of former President Benigno Aquino III stopped all joint exploration in the Recto Bank in 2014 after the Philippines filed a diplomatic protest before the United Nation arbitral tribunal against China’s expansive claim in the South China Sea.

The Philippines won its case in July 2016.

Issues on the joint exploration in the South China Sea again surfaced after Duterte on Wednesday said a joint exploration with Beijing, which he likened to “co-ownership,” was better than going to war with China. /jpv

RELATED STORY

Joint exploration with China is co-ownership, says Duterte

Outbrain