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Duterte says China could be losing interest on joint oil exploration deal in South China Sea

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By Genalyn Kabiling

It appears that China might no longer agree to the 60-40 sharing deal on the proposed joint oil exploration in the South China Sea, President Duterte said last Thursday night.

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte delivers his speech after administering the oath to the newly elected local government officials and party-list representatives during a ceremony at the Malacañan Palace on June 25, 2019. (ROBINSON NIÑAL JR. / PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

President Rodrigo Roa Duterte (ROBINSON NIÑAL JR. / PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)

Amid the uproar over his pronouncement that China cannot be stopped from fishing in the country’s exclusive economic zone, the President admitted that China earlier agreed to share the resources but is now unlikely to enter into such exploration arrangement.

“They are willing now to share sana, 60-40. I do not think they will agree now,” Duterte said in an interview with reporters in Malacañang Thursday.

Duterte explained that he made a pitch for a joint oil exploration deal with China, but has noticed that no one was talking about it now.

“Since I cannot assert jurisdiction, sabi ko hati na lang noon. Pumayag na sila. Sabi nila, ‘Para sa iyo, Mayor, 60-40 papayag kami.’ Ngayon, nobody’s talking about it [I said let’s split the resources. They agreed and said, ‘For you Mayor, we will agree with 60-40.’ Now, nobody’s talking about it],” he said.

In 2018, the President proposed that the Philippines could forge a 60-40 sharing scheme with China on the proposed oil exploration amid improving ties between the two nations. He opted to pursue the joint exploration proposal rather than wage war with China over the territorial conflict that can result in the loss of Filipino lives.

The Philippines later forged a pact with China to negotiate a possible oil and gas exploration in the future. The Palace has repeatedly assured the public that any oil exploration deal with China would be constitutional and beneficial to the nation.

In the same media interview Thursday, Duterte recalled that he raised the government’s plans to dig oil in the South China Sea in his initial meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing. The Philippine leader, however, was reminded by Xi not to stir up “trouble” in the region.

The two leaders instead agreed to focus on cooperative ventures on enhancing economic relations such as the joint oil exploration.

“Sabi ko, ‘I’m going there to dig oil.’ Ang sagot ni Xi Jinping in whisper, tanungin mo sila, ‘Alam mo, Mayor Duterte, we just restored our friendship. It was not good for a number of years. Pero huwag na muna tayong pag-usapan.’

Sabi niya, ‘Let’s talk about helping each other, trade, commerce, investment, China can help’ [I said, I’m going there to dig oil. Xi Jinping said in whisper, you can ask them, ‘You know Mayor Duterte, we just restored our friendship. It was not good for a number of yeas. but let’s not talk about that now. He said, ‘Let’s talk about helping each other, trade commerce, investment, China can help],” he said.
Duterte said he still told Xi of his plan to explore oil in the waterway since the territory belongs to the country.

“No, no, balik ako sabi ko, ‘I want my oil because that is ours there.’ And he said, ‘No, because you know that could mean trouble,'” he said.

Duterte hit back at critics of his stance in the West Philippine Sea, asking them what Xi meant about trouble.

“O kayong mga ugok, palibhasa kayo ang alam ninyo kayo lang ang bright mga ulol. ‘Pag lumabas ‘yang “that is trouble”, anong ibig sabihin niyan from the mouth of President? [You fools, you think that you are the only bright ones. Fools. When he said, ‘That is trouble,’ what do you think it means coming from the mouth of the President?],” he said.

In 2017, the President previously disclosed that Xi threatened to go to war if the Philippines insisted on drilling for oil in the disputed territory. Duterte has often declared that country could not afford to wage war with China, and would rather enhance economic ties and manage the territorial dispute through bilateral dialogue.

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