PH, China to form joint committees for oil, gas cooperation in South China Sea
The Philippines and China will set up joint committees for the possible oil and gas cooperation in the disputed South China Sea.
In a media interview on Thursday in Beijing, Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana recalled that last June, Manila submitted its proposed terms of reference on how to go about the memorandum of understanding on oil and gas cooperation to Chinese side, which came out with notes of agreement last July.
"So that has already been agreed upon. Now the question is how to move forward further. And it’s possible the two sides will discuss, you know, the need to form now the joint steering committee and the working committees --- the enter --- joint entrepreneurial working committees meaning composed of the companies that will actually be engaged in the cooperation," he said.
The MOU on oil and gas cooperation was signed in November last year during the visit in Manila by Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Duterte, who is on his fifth visit to China, earlier said he would bring up with Xi the possible joint exploration in the disputed waters where the Philippines would get a 60 percent share, while 40 percent for China.
"So, I think the plan is, you know, to get the framework ready so that the steering committee can start the ball rolling and as well as the work groups and they can start meeting. And so that the service contracts which have been affected by the moratorium can also proceed," Sta. Romana said.
The Philippine government under the Aquino administration suspended the oil exploration on Service Contract 72 in Recto Bank, which is within the Philippine exclusive economic zone, but is also being claimed by China, due to the territorial dispute.
The envoy said China has accepted that certain areas in the South China Sea are undisputed.
"So that shouldn't be a problem," he said.
"So we are trying to find a way within certain parameters to move forward. And so far it would take a lot of flexibility and pragmatism on both side. And so a lot of this will be through discussions, negotiations and consultations," he added.
The negotiations to be conducted by the experts between the two countries, including the Department of Energy and the companies concerned in the possible exploration, aim to come up with a contract.
"But the contract has to be in accordance with the Philippine Constitution and also with the --- with UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea). And since the Chinese are involved also in accordance with the Chinese Constitution, I think," he said.
The official admitted that the negotiations would be "protracted or at least intense" in order to reach an acceptable contract for both sides. Celerina Monte/DMS