PH, China to have joint venture in West Philippine Sea — Duterte

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Map showing the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), including the Spratlys Islands and Scarborough Shoal. AFP

The Philippines will enter into joint oil exploration with China in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), President Rodrigo Duterte has said.

“When they start to excavate the gas and all. I tell you, it’s going to be just like a joint venture para pareho,” Duterte said in a press conference after his second State of the Nation (Sona) at the House of Representatives in Quezon City.

But the President said there’s no timeline yet for the start of the joint venture.

“Wala pa sila pero we are into it already. We are there already, may partner na. ‘Di ko lang masabi. Nandoon na ang atin pati kanila. They are talking and they are exploring,” he said.

In his two-hour Sona, Duterte did not talk much about the Philippine maritime dispute with China. He only said it would be discussed sooner or later.

During his second visit to China last May, Duterte said he told Chinese President Xi Jinping that the Philippines would drill for oil in the disputed sea but China threatened war if the Philippines pressed its claims.

The Philippines won a landmark victory in July 2016 after the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal at The Hague favored the Philippines diplomatic protest over China’s expansive claims in the West Philippine Sea.

But China has repeatedly refused to recognize the ruling and continues to build artificial islands in the disputed sea.

Duterte said in May that he was open to exploring the resources of the South China Sea with rival claimants China and Vietnam.

“If we can get something there with no hassle at all, why not?” he said.

Since he assumed office in June 2016, the President insisted on a “soft landing” approach in dealing with China over the maritime dispute. The two countries have started bilateral talks over the issue. CBB

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