Philippines, China may sign agreement on joint exploration in disputed sea 'anytime'

MANILA (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - The joint exploration between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) could be signed “anytime” before, or even during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Philippines, Malacañang said on Thursday.

The joint exploration between the Philippines and China in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) could be signed “anytime” before, or even during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Philippines, Malacañang said on Thursday.

The visit of Xi to Manila is scheduled before the end of 2018 or after Xi attends the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in November this year.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano discussed the joint exploration of natural resources between Manila and Beijing in the West Philippine Sea during the Cabinet meeting on Monday.

Asked about the time frame for the signing of the agreement on joint exploration, Roque said it was not “expressly stated” during the Cabinet meeting.

“No time frame po. But of course, because of the impending visit of President Xi, I would say that it is anytime between now and visit of President Xi, but it was not expressly stated as such,” he said in a palace briefing.

Roque explained that the Philippines will enter into "a bilateral agreement that would enable the joint exploration to happen.”

'Constitutional'

Roque also noted that the joint exploration is Constitutional.

“The President has repeatedly said that he's open to joint exploration number one because the Supreme Court says it is constitutional in La Bugal, and number two because it is pursuant to national interest,” he said.

Roque was referring to the 2004 Supreme Court decision on La Bugal vs. Ramos case which said that the state could secure the help of foreign companies to explore mineral resources in the Philippines as long as it maintains right of full control.

Despite the proposed joint exploration, Roque said Duterte assured his Cabinet that the government would “not give up even an inch of Philippine territory.”

“That’s the position,” Roque said.

He said the military was supportive of the proposal.

“Eh lahat naman po supportive. Basta malinaw po na wala tayong pinamimigay na teritoryo. We are working with the realities of modern day life, we're working with the realities of geopolitics, but we're promoting the national interest, first and foremost,” he explained.   

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