DFA chief accepts Beijing’s terms as ‘superior’
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has accepted the terms of reference proposed by China for an agreement on the joint exploration for oil and gas in the West Philippine Sea, according to Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.
“I accepted China’s version of the Terms of Reference (TOR) as superior to our own. Everything going well,” Locsin posted on Twitter on Sunday.
When retired diplomat and former ambassador to Europe Victoria Bataclan asked to see the draft, Locsin declined and said “it is not a draft. I accepted it so it is final.”
Locsin did not say whether the TOR is the same as the “draft framework agreement” that Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV released last November during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Locsin has never confirmed nor denied the veracity of the document, but Malacañang defended its acceptance “for review.”
The TOR released by Trillanes contained a provision that all documents, data and information on the matter remain confidential until both parties decide otherwise.
Locsin stressed that negotiations were “going well,” but denied the statement of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi that Manila and Beijing are looking at a November deadline.
Locsin said the memorandum of understanding (MOU) that President Duterte and Xi signed last November only committed both nations to exert their best efforts to flesh out an agreement within a year.
“There is no one-year deadline for specific project. Just best effort,” he said. “There is also no deadline on the brilliant oil and gas MOU I wrote & China & PH signed. It is endless.”
Even Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio—one of the critics of the Duterte administration’s China policy—said last November that the MOU could help settle the dispute in the West Philippine Sea.
Carpio explained that the MOU envisions a service contract-type agreement that complies with Philippine law.
Carpio was part of the legal team that argued the Philippines’ case against China before The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in 2012.
In 2016, the PCA ruled in favor of the Philippines, invalidating Beijing’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea.
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