DAVAO CITY, Philippines – The Philippines and China can shelve their maritime claims for the sake of joint development in the West Philippine Sea, said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Monday, October 29, in a press conference here.
"China is ready to further discuss with the Philippines about joint development of oil and gas in the South China Sea, to shelve differences and pursue joint development," Wang said in a joint press conference at the end of his two-day trip to Davao City.
Joint development refers to the proposal to jointly extract oil and natural gas in the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea. In July 2016, an international tribunal upheld the Philippines' rights over the West Philippine Sea, but China continues to assert its claim over these waters.
Experts view joint development as a way for China to redeem itself after losing the South China Sea case filed by the Philippines at The Hague. As a Wall Street Journal headline states, "China poised to win major victory in sea dispute with help of Philippine resources deal." (READ: China lost to PH in court. Will it win via joint exploration?)
Wang noted that more than 3 decades ago, joint development was first proposed to the Philippines by the late Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. He said that "this proposal contains political wisdom."
Energy shortage cited
"If our two countries can have joint development without prejudice to each other's sovereign claim, that will help resolve the potential energy shortage of the Philippines," Wang said.
"It will also provide a practical way for China and the Philippines to properly handle their related differences. It can also set an example for similar cooperation between china and other coastal countries," he added.
It remains to be seen how China can achieve this. China, after all, asserts "indisputable sovereignty" over South China Sea islands and their surrounding waters.
Philippine Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, a leading expert on the West Philippine Sea, earlier said the Philippine Constitution bans joint development within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
Carpio said in July 2016: "The exclusive economic zone is called 'exclusive' because it is exclusive to the coastal state, to the Philippines. That's why you cannot have joint development with another country because international law and national law have said it's exclusive."
He asked, "Why do you want to share what’s exclusively yours?" – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.