Cayetano to fly to Beijing for talks on West PH Sea joint exploration
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano is set to visit Beijing to discuss the framework of the joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and speed up the economic deals with the Asian giant.
“I will be going to China soon, I am working on our working group here now. I’ve been informed that they already have their working group so when I do go to Beijing, we will be discussing a framework and I am suggesting that we speak first about joint exploration,” he told reporters Wednesday evening at the sidelines of the closing session of a global migration forum in Manila.
The top diplomat said he would soon announce the exact schedule of the trip but said the primary agenda of the visit is “to speed up all of our engagements, projects, investments, loans with China.”
The current administration has been criticized for playing down the sea dispute with China and setting aside the arbitral ruling in exchange of economic investments and friendly ties with the regional superpower.
Cayetano expressed hopes that an agreement could be signed by next month for the joint exploration to go further.
“We are still on schedule. I am still hoping that we can get to sign something this September that will allow the exploration,” he said.
“In exploration, you do not extract anything yet, you find out what’s there…Do you not want to know what’s there? What’s all the dispute about, what are the resources there? I don’t think it will harm anyone if we all work together and find out what’s there,” he also said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has recently approved the creation of a technical working group, composed of experts from the government and private sector, to study the deal.
Cayetano said both Philippines and China have to set aside their claims to territory and sovereign rights for the joint exploration.
He likened the agreement to warring parties in a rebellion: “It can’t be a one-party ceasefire. You’ll still kill each other. It has to be both sides who will say ceasefire and when both sides say ceasefire, that’s not surrender…So in our case, let’s stop fighting, let’s start drilling.”
At the same time, he also assured the critics that the “security concerns” on the exploration of will be tackled in the agreement.
“Ive been sitting down with foreign and local experts, and they’re confident that a joint exploration and joint development will not conflict, will not in any way violate our constitution and will not in any way damage or give away or do anything to our Arbitration Award,” he said. /vvp
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