President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping discuss matters during the bilateral meeting at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing on Aug. 29, 2019.
Presidential Photo/Robinson Niñal Jr.
West Philippine Sea joint exploration not a done deal — Palace
Patricia Lourdes Viray (Philstar.com) - September 13, 2019 - 11:43am

MANILA, Philippines — Following President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of setting aside the Philippines' victory in the South China Sea arbitration, Malacañang said that the proposed joint oil and gas exploration with China is not yet final.

Earlier this week, Duterte said the Philippine government will "ignore" the arbitral award in order to pursue economic activity in the West Philippine Sea, the portion of South China Sea that is within the country's exclusive economic zone.

Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the technical committees of both the Philippines and China have yet to meet to discuss the terms of reference of the possible joint exploration.

Aside from negotiations on the possible joint exploration, Panelo said Manila and Beijing are also discussing the West Philippine Sea issue. China refuses to acknowledge the 2016 arbitral award that invalidated its nine-dash line claim over the disputed South China Sea.

"Dito muna tayo mag-concentrate sa mga areas of concern na maaaring magbenepisyo ang ating dalawang bansa kasama na nga iyong joint exploration," Panelo told radio dzMM Friday.

(Let us concentrate first in areas of concern that will benefit both of our countries, including the joint exploration,)

Panelo stressed that the maritime dispute and the proposed joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea are separate issues.

'It cannot be set aside'

The Malacañang mouthpiece also stressed that the arbitral ruling cannot be set aside, despite Duterte's earlier statement.

"From the very beginning the president has been saying that the arbitral ruling is final, binding... So it cannot be set aside. It's always there," Panelo said.

In a press briefing last Tuesday night, Duterte said Chinese President Xi Jinping told him that Beijing would agree to a 60-40 sharing scheme if the Philippines would set aside the arbitral ruling.

"Set aside your claim. Then allow everybody connected with the Chinese companies,” Duterte said, recalling his conversation with his Chinese counterpart.

Duterte also recalled how Xi refused to "budge" when he brought up the arbitral award in their bilateral meeting last month.

"You know, China is there. He holds the property under the claim of ownership. 'Yan ang sagot niya. It is ours, we will not budge," Duterte said.

CHINA PHILIPPINES-CHINA TIES RODRIGO DUTERTE SOUTH CHINA SEA WEST PHILIPPINE SEA XI JINPING
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