China still optimistic on joint oil, gas exploration despite SC ruling

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
China still optimistic on joint oil, gas exploration despite SC ruling
This March 22, 2021 aerial photo shows Chinese vessels still present in the Julian Felipe Reef in the West Philippine Sea, well within the Philippine exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.
Armed Forces of the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — China is still hopeful that talks for joint exploration with the Philippines would continue despite a Supreme Court ruling that declared unconstitutional and void an agreement from the 2000s made among companies from China, Vietnam, and the Philippines. 

Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian pointed to Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.’s talks on maritime cooperation and noted their willingness to overcome "obstacles that may be in front of us so that we can get to where we wish to get."

"I think our leaders have agreed to resume the discussions and negotiations on the oil and gas joint exploration and we believe the team in our countries, we engage each other you know to discuss… we [hope we] will make some progress," Huang told reporters during the embassy’s Chinese New Year festivities on Monday. 

READ: Philippines studying China proposal for fishing partnership in West Philippine Sea

Last week, the Supreme Court declared that the lapsed Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) among China National Offshore Oil Corp., Vietnam Oil and Gas Corp., and the Philippine National Oil Company was unconstitutional and void.

The deal would have covered 142,886 square meters in the South China Sea. Around 80% of the coverage area is part of the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone, meaning majority of the joint exploration of in the JMSU would have been conducted in Philippine waters.

The high court cited Section 2, Article XII of the 1987 Constitution that all of the country’s natural resources "shall be under the full control and supervision of the State."

RELATED: SC rules Arroyo-era joint exploration with China, Vietnam unconstitutional

The 2016 Hague ruling invalidated China’s nine-dash claims over the South China Sea and provided that some are within the Philippines’ EEZ and continental shelf. 

The Reed Bank is within the EEZ, which has about 21% more gas than the reserve in Malampaya. It is also one of the two areas being eyed as sites of joint exploration between the Philippines and China.

‘Working hard’ to implement agreements

Meanwhile, the Chinese envoy said Marcos Jr.’s trip has prompted continuous communication between the two countries. Almost two weeks after the visit, Huang said both parties are “working very hard” to implement agreements made when Marcos Jr. visited Beijing early this year.

“After their very substantive and fruitful and successful visit of President Marcos to China, there have been very frequent interaction between the departments concerned of China and the departments concerned in this country,” Huang said. 

“We are working very hard to implement what have been agreed by the two top leaders,” he added.

The Philippines and China inked 14 agreements during the Philippine delegation’s state visit from January 3 to 5. Among these deals are on infrastructure, tourism, agriculture, and a concessional loan from Beijing.

RELATED: Pacts signed with China just ‘continuation’ of past agreements, analysts say

The two countries also signed a communication pact to sort out all issues that involve the West Philippine Sea. with a report from Kristine Joy Patag 

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