MALACAÑANG defended on Friday, August 3, the Philippine government's plan to conduct a joint exploration with China for oil and gas reserves in the disputed South China Sea (West Philippine Sea).
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said the two nations' impending 60-40 joint exploration of natural resources in the contested waters would be compliant with the provisions of the 1987 Constitution.
Roque ensured that the Philippines would receive 60 percent of the oil and natural gas deposits, while China would get the remaining 40 percent.
"Why 60-40 on the joint exploration? Because we're following the specific provision in the Constitution that foreigners can participate on a 60-40 basis. Meaning, 60 percent Filipino and 40 percent foreign-owned," Roque told reporters in Bukidnon.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano has announced that the Duterte government is already working on a framework agreement for the possible joint exploration with China.
China, which claims nearly 90 percent of the resource-rich South China Sea, has expressed willingness to enter into a 60-40 joint exploration arrangement with the Philippines.
In March, Malacañang earlier announced that Service Contracts 57 (Calamian) and 72 (Recto Bank) are being considered by China and the Philippines as areas that can be explored and exploited "by corporations and not by sovereign states."
The proposed joint exploration developed after President Rodrigo Duterte in February claimed that the Philippines will have a "co-ownership" with China when the two countries begin the exploitation of oil and gas reserves in the South China Sea.
Some opposition have expressed concerns that the joint exploration would violate the Philippine Constitution.
Duterte's predecessor, former President Benigno Aquino III, slammed on Wednesday, August 1, the Philippines' possible oil exploration with China, saying Manila has no obligation to share its resources with Beijing.
But on Thursday, August 2, acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, critical of Duterte's soft stance on sea disputes, was amenable to the proposed joint exploration deal, as long as the Duterte administration upholds its sovereign rights to the South China Sea.
On July 12, 2016, the Philippines won an arbitration case lodged by the Aquino government before the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, invalidating China's nine-dash line claim over the resource-rich waters.
Roque was confident that the Philippines renewed friendship and new-found cooperation with China would "bear fruition."
"Well, I think Philippine-Chinese relationship is at its renaissance, it is at its best," he said. (SunStar Philippines)