By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora
MANILA – The Philippine and Chinese governments have agreed to resume talks on oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea at an “early date” following the bilateral summit between President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. and Chinese President Xi Jinping on Jan. 4.
In a joint statement, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Foreign Ministry said discussions would build upon the outcomes of the previous negotiations during the Duterte administration, “with a view of benefiting the two countries and their peoples.”
“On oil and gas cooperation, both sides agreed to bear in mind the spirit of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation on Oil and Gas Development between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Government of the Republic of Philippines signed in 2018, and agreed to resume discussions on oil and gas development at an early date,” the statement read.
The two parties also agreed to explore cooperation in areas of solar power, wind energy, electric vehicles and nuclear energy for electricity generation, among others.
Talks on a possible oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea were terminated during the time of former President Rodrigo Duterte over constitutional constraints.
After repeated requests from China, both sides eventually held an “initial discussion” in July and August for the possible revival of negotiations.
The public is assured that any agreement that would come out from the discussions would be “in accordance with the Philippine Constitution”.
The 1987 Constitution states that the exploration, development, and use of natural resources should be under the “full control and supervision” of the Philippine government.
‘Not the sum total’
Meanwhile, Marcos and Xi agreed to appropriately manage the South China Sea row through peaceful means as they emphasized that maritime issues “do not comprise the sum total of relations” between Manila and Beijing.
Both sides reaffirmed the importance of maintaining and promoting peace and stability in the region and the freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea.
The two leaders, the joint statement said, had also “reached consensus on the peaceful resolution of disputes” on the basis of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, the United Nations Charter and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Stronger maritime cooperation between Manila and Beijing is also expected as both parties agreed to collaborate closely on the mitigation of marine debris and microplastics and towards the establishment of a partnership between coastal model cities of the two countries.
During the summit, Marcos and Xi made a commitment to further strengthen the China-Philippines relationship of Comprehensive Strategic Cooperation under new circumstances, “as close neighbors, kin and partners that help and understand each other towards win-win results”. (PNA)