Duterte: No talks with China on joint exploration in West PH Sea

BEIJING, China – President Rodrigo Duterte has no plans of proposing joint exploration for oil and natural gas in the West Philippine Sea to China.

"No, I do not think that will be right," said Duterte when asked if he will bring up this plan during bilateral talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping. He was speaking to reporters on Wednesday, October 19, in a Beijing hotel. 

Duterte said the fate of natural resources in the West Philippine Sea is not his to decide. Before making any proposal, he will seek the approval of the Philippine Congress. (READ: PH-China sea dispute may not be solved ‘in our lifetime’ – Yasay)

"If you plan to share what you have, if it is really yours, then you cannot talk about it only on your own. This has to be with the consent of Congress and everybody, every Filipino involved," said Duterte.

"At this time, I am not empowered to do that. I cannot give something and I cannot also add what has been given me," he added.

Duterte said the various branches of government in the Philippines have yet to coordinate with each other for a stance on exploration for natural resources in the disputed sea.

"There has not been any meeting between Congress and the Executive Department and even the Supreme Court. Justice Carpio has been talking a lot about it," he said.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has said it is unconstitutional for Duterte to concede the West Philippine Sea to foreign powers. He also urged the President to allow the Philippine military to be part of joint patrols in the sea.

But Duterte said that he and his advisers have decided to talk about the West Philippine Sea during bilateral talks.

"That is the time we can come up with hard agreements. We just agreed that we will talk about the [South] China Sea," he said.

The bilateral talks, set to happen on Thursday, October 20, will yield "specific agreements" on a variety of concerns.

"I am sure as there will be disagreements also which we cannot avoid but we can maybe dispense it altogether and put it to another day," he said.

As early as his presidential campaign, Duterte had said he is open to joint exploration with China in the West Philippine Sea. A similar venture was undertaken during the administration of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

But under the Aquino administration, ties between the Philippines and China soured after the Philippine government filed a case against China with an international arbitration court.

The court decided in the Philippines' favor, rejecting China's "9-dash line" or its claim to 90% of the West Philippine Sea.

China rejects the ruling but has previously said it is supportive of joint exploration ventures with other claimants. Its officials have said that the sea is "big enough to be shared." – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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