China ‘fairly positive’ to PH lifting of oil exploration ban in WPS — envoy
MANILA, Philippines — China gave a “fairly positive” reaction to the Philippine government’s lifting of the moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea, a Filipino diplomat said Thursday.
“The foreign ministry spokesman of China gave a fairly positive reaction. They said that they look forward to cooperation between the two sides in line with the MOU (memorandum of understanding) of 2018. So I think there will be more discussions on this,” Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana said in a televised Palace press briefing.
Sta. Romana even laughed when asked if he was summoned by the Chinese government following the Philippines’ unilateral move in the contested waters.
“No, I wasn’t summoned,” he said.
The Aquino administration issued a moratorium on all exploration and drilling activities covering the disputed West Philippine Sea in 2014 amid rising geopolitical tensions between the Philippines and China.
Four years later, the Philippines—under President Duterte— signed an MOU for a joint oil and gas exploration deal in the West Philippine Sea with China.
But talks about the possible oil deal was hampered by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the diplomat said.
“There are diplomatic discussions going on on when it can resume safely,” Sta. Romana said.
Beijing claims almost the entire South China Sea, including parts of Philippine territory. But a 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) invalidated China’s ambitious nine-dash line feature that virtually owns the entire body of water.
The Asian powerhouse refused to acknowledge the ruling and continue its militarization in the disputed areas. Meanwhile, Duterte has chosen to shelve the PCA ruling in exchange for Chinese economic perks to help fund his administration’s infrastructure projects.
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