Duterte wants proposal for joint exploration in South China Sea to be reviewed
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday he wants to review a proposal for joint maritime exploration undertaking in the disputed South China sea to ensure that it would not be disadvantageous to the Philippines.
In a press conference in Davao City when he arrived after almost a weeklong trip abroad, Duterte said, "let us see the wherewithals.”
"Let us see if we are not at the disadvantaged point. It has to be fair and it has to be balanced," he said.
Duterte's Special Envoy for Intercultural Dialogue Jose de Venecia Jr . revived the proposal for joint exploration in the South China Sea during his talk at the Belt and Road forum in China.
He recalled the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) of the Philippines, Vietnam, and China in 2008 under the Arroyo administration. The three countries, claimants in the South China Sea, agreed to conduct joint explorations in the disputed waters.
A militant group filed in 2008 a petition before the Supreme Court to declare JMSU unconstitutional. The high court has yet to rule on the matter.
Duterte said he would support the joint exploration if after the review, the Philippines would benefit..
"So if we can get something there with no hassle at all, so why not?," he said.
In the same press conference, Duterte expressed hope that with the May 19 Bilateral Consultative Meeting between the Philippines and China, a Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea would be realized.
"Because that (COC) is what the ASEAN, I mean the countries are asking? And may be also the Americas and everybody," he said.
"There will be a Code of Conduct. I will not speculate on how or --- the dimension rather of the agreement. It has to be worked out," he said.
During his separate meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing, Duterte said they agreed this was not the time to discuss the ruling of the arbitral tribunal on their territorial dispute.
"There is a time for me to ask about the arbitral ruling but it is not now. We have to go into the mechanics. We have to have an agenda, the structure of the meeting and the way how to present our case to them first before we agreed to talk and to have a dialogue," he said.
In July last year, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration favored the Philippine petition against China's "historic" claim in almost the entire South China Sea.
Meanwhile, aside from Chinese promise to assist the Philippine infrastructure projects, and to increase imports, Duterte said China also wants to open new avenues for Filipino workers.
"They are opening the doors for our teachers, workers. They lack craftsmen and engineers. So they are welcoming almost teachers, English teachers. They need many," he said. Celerina Monte/DMS