PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has no plan of abandoning the Philippines' arbitral win against China on the South China Sea conflict to give way for the two nations' joint exploration and development of oil and gas reserves, Malacañang said on Thursday, September 12.
Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo issued the clarification two days after Duterte said he would "ignore" the sea ruling to ensure "economic activity" in the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
In a press conference, Panelo clarified that the arbitral ruling remains the subject to "peaceful" talks between Manila and Beijing.
"The setting aside does not mean that we will abandon it. What the President means is that, as we have repeatedly said and as he said too, the arbitral ruling is stilll subject to talks between the two countries, negotiations [are] ongoing peacefully," the Palace official said.
"But meanwhile, we focus with other concerns that may mutually benefit the two countries," he added.
On Tuesday, September 10, Duterte recalled that Chinese President Xi Jinping had asked him to "set aside" Manila's historic arbitral win, in order to advance its oil exploration plans with Beijing.
The July 2016 ruling issued by the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration affirmed Manila's petition against China's extensive claims to most features of the South China Sea.
The President made the remark, as he noted that Xi had promised a 60 percent-40 percent revenue sharing scheme in favor of the Philippines.
"Ang China, 'Set aside the arbitral ruling. Set aside your claim. Then allow everybody connected with the Chinese companies.' They want to explore and if there is something, sabi nila, 'we would be gracious enough to give you 60 percent'. Forty [percent] lang ang kanila. That is the promise of Xi Jinping," Duterte said.
(China said, "Set aside the arbitral ruling. Set aside your claim. Then allow everybody connected with the Chinese companies.' They want to explore and if there is something, they said, 'we would be gracious enough to give you 60 percent'. They will get the remaining 40 percent. That is the promise of Xi Jinping.)
"Kasi 'yang (Because that) exclusive economic zone is part of the arbitral ruling which we will ignore to come up with an economic activity," he added.
Under the planned joint exploration deal, the Philippines will get 60 percent of the oil and natural gas resources while China will take the remaining 40 percent.
Panelo explained that the two countries would seek a joint oil and gas development, while there is still an "impasse" in the sea disputes.
"The arbitral ruling is still subject to peaceful talks. 'Yun ang ibig sabihin nun. In other words, impasse pa e, so hayaan mo muna silang mag-usap (That's what it meant. In other words, there's an impasse so let them negotiate first). So let's talk about other things like this joint exploration," he said.
"'Yun ang ibig sabihin nun. Hindi 'yung naka-focus ka lang doon (That's what it meant. You do not focus on the sea ruling). As we have always said, the relationship between the two countries is not measured by the conflict in the West Philippine Sea alone," Panelo added. (SunStar Philippines)