MANILA, Philippines – Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said the Philippines can "trust China" on its word, particularly on joint oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea.
"It is a regional power and I have no reason to believe that it will renege on any agreements," Lorenzana said on Sunday, September 1.
The Philippines and China have agreed to form groups that will finalize agreements on joint oil and gas exploration in specific areas in the West Philippine Sea. This was one of the products of the bilateral meeting between Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping last Thursday, August 29.
"The devil, as they say, [is] in the details later on when we go on joint development of the resources in the [West Philippine Sea]," Lorenzana said. "Let us trust, but we must also be cautious."
Duterte had raised the Hague ruling in his meeting with Xi, only to be contradicted, with the Chinese leader again refusing to recognize the arbitral ruling which struck down Beijing's claim to the West Philippine Sea.
But according to Lorenzana, the two governments "agreed to disagree civilly" on the West Philippine Sea issue.
"Our relationship with China is not circumscribed by the [West Philippine Sea] issue alone," he said. "There are far larger issues that we agree upon that benefit both our peoples, like trade, tourism, people-to-people exchanges."
The Philippine defense secretary's latest remarks about China are warmer than some of his recent statements.
Back in July, he hit China for its actions in the West Philippine Sea, even siding with a public opinion survey that indicated a decline in China's trust rating among Filipinos.
"Well, the way they took over Scarborough Shoal, to me that was bullying," Lorenzana said then. – Rappler.com