Cayetano to sign framework deal with China for joint exploration
Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano intends to sign next month a framework agreement with China for joint exploration for oil and natural gas in the West Philippine Sea.
West Philippine Sea is the local name of the waters within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea.
Speaking to reporters late on Wednesday, Cayetano said he hoped to sign a joint exploration agreement during his visit to Beijing in September, his third since coming to office two years ago.
A joint venture with China underscores the Philippines’ turnaround since winning an international arbitral ruling against China’s claim to nearly all of the South China Sea in 2016.
The Duterte administration set aside the ruling in exchange for aid, loans and investments from China.
Last week, Cayetano said President Duterte approved his proposal to create a working group to thresh out a framework agreement with the Chinese.
“I’ve been informed that they (China) already have their working group. So when I do go to Beijing, we will be discussing a framework,” Cayetano told reporters late Wednesday.
“We are still on schedule. I am still hoping that we can get to sign something this September that will allow the exploration… I don’t think it will harm anyone if we all work together and find out what is there,” he went on.
Cayetano has assured critics that the agreement with China will comply with the Constitution, which reserves the Philippines’ natural resources for the exclusive use of Filipinos.
“All parties have to set aside, for the meantime their claims both to territory and sovereign rights, so that you can have joint exploration,” he said.
According to him, “foreign and local experts” back his position that joint exploration and development with China in the West Philippine Sea “will not in any way violate our Constitution and will not in any way do anything negative to our arbitration award.”
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