Palace: Joint exploration of West PH Sea with China to give PH energy security
A possible joint energy exploration with China in the West Philippine Sea would give the country energy security as oil prices continue to rise in the international market, Malacañang said Tuesday.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said government is pushing for the signing of the deal during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping in Manila this November.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure that when President Xi comes here, we can sign a joint exploration to start the search for natural gas and oil so that we can have energy security,” Roque said in a Palace briefing.
Manila and Beijing is eyeing Service Contract 72, which covers Recto Bank, known internationally as Reed Bank, as the potential area for the joint exploration.
“Ang pagkakaintindi namin, sang-ayon po sa mga intial na pag-aaral, talagang may laman natural gas and langis lalung-lalo na yung tinatawag na Service Contract 72,” said Roque.
The government, however, has issued a moratorium on exploration activities in the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea.
The West Philippine Sea refers to the waters within the Philippines’ 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone (EEZ)in the South China Sea.
Beijing has expansive claims in the South China Sea, including those within Manila’s EEZ.
“So ito nagiging malinaw, kinakailangan nating isulong ang joint exploration, isantabi ang hidwaan,” Roque said, consistent with President Duterte’s “soft-landing” approach toward Beijing in dealing with our maritime dispute.
Asked if when the government lift the moratorium, Roque said the Philippines and China need to have an agreement first.
“Step by step po yan dahil kini-claim din yan ng China so magkakaroon muna tayo ng tratado o executive agreement para sa joint exploration matapos po ‘yun, tuluy-tuloy na ang paghahanap diyan,” he said.
“As soon as it is signed, they (China) are willing to undertake further steps already,” he added.
The Palace official said the joint exploration deal would be the “most important agreement” signed between the Philippines and China during the visit of Xi.
“[ito ang] pinakaimportanteng agreement po dahil nga sa pagtaas ng presyo ng langis na nagdadahilan para tumaas ang lahat, joint exploration po sana dahil wala na po tayong ibang lugar sa Pilipinas na posibleng mayroong langis at natural gas but SC 72,” he said.
The continued oil price hike in the international market has been blamed for the record high-inflation in the Philippines.
“Naiintindihan po ng taumbayan wala tayong magagawa habang wala tayong gasolina sa ating bayan. Kaya nga po isa sa pinag-aaralan at talagang gustong isulong ng ating administrasyon yung joint exploration na ng West Philippine Sea,” Roque said. /muf