Locsin says PH-China oil and gas talks ‘terminated completely’
MANILA, Philippines — Joint oil and gas exploration discussions between the Philippines and China have been “terminated completely” upon the instruction of President Rodrigo Duterte, his foreign affairs chief said Thursday.
“The President had spoken. I carried out his instructions to the letter: oil and gas discussions are terminated completely. Nothing is pending; everything is over,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a speech during the 124th founding anniversary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).
“Three years on and we had not achieved our objective of developing oil and gas resources so critical for the Philippines – but not at the price of sovereignty; not even a particle of it,” he added.
It was in 2018 when Manila and Beijing signed a memorandum of understanding, creating the framework for future negotiations on joint oil and gas explorations in the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines has long been locked in a maritime dispute with China. In 2016, Manila won an arbitral award that invalidated Beijing’s expansive claims in the South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippines Sea.
China, however, has repeatedly brushed aside the historic arbitral ruling.
“But just because we have differences does not mean we have to fight over everything. In that spirit, I tried for three years to come to an agreement to facilitate exploration for and exploitation of oil and gas in the West Philippine Sea,” Locsin said.
“We got as far as it is constitutionally possible to go. One step forward from where we stood on the edge of the abyss is a drop into [a] constitutional crisis. That explains the sudden pull-back on my part, which unraveled three years of sincere hard work on the part of Wang Yi and me,” he added.
He was referring to his Chinese counterpart, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
“We had both tried to go as far as we could – without renouncing China’s aspiration on his part; and constitutional limitations on my part. I shut down shop completely,” Locsin said.
During his speech, the DFA chief also recalled the negotiations for a code of conduct in the South China Sea.
“We insisted that it does not concede Chinese supremacy to the exclusion of other powers on a pacific footing. To be fair, China has never asked for that,” Manila’s top diplomat said.
To “every intrusion,” the DFA responded with a protest, Locsin also said.
“If it comes to it, we will answer with action. Duterte and [Defense Secretary Delfin] Lorenzana have given us the start of a credible retaliatory force; and thereby helped me turn our foreign policy into a fist in the iron glove of the armed forces,” he added.
“In upholding the rule of law and not of might as the way forward, we’ve held on to UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) and the 2016 arbitral award. They are the twin anchors of the Philippine position on the West Philippine and South China Seas. Without the rule of law, none can thrive nor long survive the resulting anarchy. And no – the game of anarchy does not always go to the strongest,” the DFA chief further said.
Locsin also reiterated that the Philippines has “not surrendered a single inch of territory or a drop of our waters.”
“Not by word or deed have we weakened our right to everything in the West Philippine Sea. Without inviting pity by asking, we achieved an international consensus that right is with us and might cannot ever take it away. In the 21st century, the first incontestable and most significant victory at sea is Filipino,” he said.
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