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PH, not China, should draft oil, gas exploration deal – Locsin

The Philippines, not China, should draft an oil and gas exploration agreement, Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said on Wednesday.

Locsin made the remarks on Twitter as he rebuffed President Rodrigo Duterte’s spokesperson, Salvador Panelo, who said on Tuesday that he did not care if Beijing drafted the agreement because Manila would review it anyway.

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“Palace Com doesn’t care if it is a Chinese draft? I fu*k*n* care! A framework or architecture for gas and oil in our part of the sea demands the draft be MINE … MIO … FILIPINO,” he tweeted.

29 agreements

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It was Locsin and Chinese Minister of State Wang Yi who signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Cooperation on Oil and Gas Development between the Philippines and China.

It was among the 29 agreements signed by the two countries during the visit here of Chinese President Xi Jinping. Xi returned home on Wednesday after a two-day state visit.

Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV had released to the media a copy of the purported MOU on oil and gas development in the disputed South China Sea.

Before the signing of the MOU, Panelo had a news briefing and was asked to comment on some senators’ concern that China drafted the document.

“Oh, it doesn’t matter who drafted it. As far as we’re concerned, you give us a draft then we will go over it. We have to see whether this is legal or not; whether it is beneficial to us or not,” Panelo said.

Locsin-drafted MOU

Asked whether it was OK for him that China was dictating the contents of the deal, he said: “No. I said, ‘even if China drafts it, it has to go over us.’ We have to review that. In the same manner that if we draft it, it will have to pass through them, too.”

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Locsin said he had written the MOU himself without consulting a draft contract earlier leaked by Trillanes.

“Except that I — moi — I alone — wrote the MOU on oil and gas without consulting the so-called Chinese draft but wrote one entirely out of whole cloth and it is impossible to attack and irresistible to praise for its sheer breathtaking elegance,” the foreign secretary said.

The agreements signed by the two countries included cooperation in trade and investment, banking and finance, infrastructure, agriculture, education and culture, and people-to-people exchanges.

But the Palace did not immediately release copies of the agreements.

Vice President Leni Robredo called on the administration to disclose the terms of bilateral agreements.

In a statement, Robredo said the administration owed it to the Filipino people to be transparent about the deals.

Where’s MOU?

So where’s the MOU on oil and gas development in the West Philippine Sea?

It’s so secret even the Department of Foreign Affairs seems to be stumped.

“Unfortunately, we do not have copies of the signed documents with us now,” said Elmer Cato, assistant foreign secretary for public diplomacy.

On Twitter,  Locsin said “it should be out in the media.” He was replying to activist leader Teddy Casiño who asked him for a copy of the MOU on Tuesday.

Opposition Sen. Leila de Lima said there must be “full transparency” in the 29 deals signed between China and the Philippines.

Senators Trillanes and Francis Pangilinan on Monday filed a resolution seeking a Senate inquiry into the proposed joint exploration deal between China and the Philippines.

60-40 sharing

Senate President Vicente Sotto III assured critics on Wednesday that the talks on joint exploration of oil and gas in the South China Sea between China and the Philippines involved a 60-40 split in favor of the latter.

“I just cannot disclose where and how, but I am privy to a proposal that was agreed upon by the President and that there are already talks with China,” he told reporters.

Sotto said he hadn’t seen what was signed “but probably it doesn’t [include the 60-40 arrangement] yet, because it’s just a MOU.”

Sen. Francis Escudero also urged Malacañang to reveal the details of all the bilateral agreements.

He recalled that during the Arroyo administration, the Philippines, China and Vietnam entered into an agreement — known as the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) — to jointly conduct oil offshore exploration covering both disputed and undisputed waters.

The agreement, however, was between the countries’ respective oil companies, Escudero said.

Nullify JMSU

Also on Wednesday, Bayan Muna chair Neri Colmenares filed in the Supreme Court an urgent motion to resolve his group’s petition to nullify the 2005 joint exploration agreement between the Philippines, China and Vietnam.

The group’s petition to declare the JMSU unconstitutional and detrimental to national interest has been pending in the high court for the past 10 years, Colmenares said in a statement.

He said the President was “making the same mistake” as Arroyo when he signed a MOU on oil and gas joint exploration with Xi. —With reports from Jerome Aning and Melvin Gascon

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TAGS: Antonio Trillanes IV, China-Philippines joint oil exploration, China-Philippines relations, Leni Robredo, Maritime Dispute, Rodrigo Duterte, Salvador Panelo, South China Sea, Teodoro Locsin Jr., Wang Yi, West Philippine Sea, Xi Jinping
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