AFTER the Philippines and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in November last year for the joint oil and gas development in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), governments of both countries are now in the process of creating an intergovernmental steering committee that would supervise the projects.
The MOU has adopted a 60-40 sharing scheme favoring the Philippines, which President Rodrigo Duterte acknowledged as acceptable to him.
What is making the MOU contentious, however, especially among the opposition, is the statement made by Duterte earlier saying that China had vowed to adopt a 60-40 sharing in exchange for setting aside the 2016 landmark ruling by the arbitral tribunal.
To be specific, what made Duterte’s statement disagreeable and disturbing is his use of the word “ignored,” like saying that the arbitral ruling on the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) would be “ignored” so that China could help the Philippines spur “economic activity” in the country’s EEZ.
Well, we all know that Duterte does not have the gift of gab, so why would the critics of Duterte continue believing immediately what he says instead of maintaining a degree of skepticism about its truth?
Thankfully, Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo, who knows Duterte like the palm of his hand, is ingenious enough to explain and make sense of what the President wants to convey to the public.
Thus, Panelo was able to clarify that what Duterte actually meant by ignoring the 2016 arbitral court ruling on the South China Sea is to leave it at that since the ruling is deemed permanent, binding, final and in the words of Panelo, unappealable.
I think Duterte, astute as he is, knows where he stands because even as he raised the 2016 landmark ruling by the arbitral tribunal Beijing still refused to budge from its claim of ownership over most of the South China Sea, including areas within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.
So why not just take the opportunity and let the joint exploration happen? Clearly, we could never do it on our own and with China so entrenched in the area it is sheer folly to expect that some foreign nation will come and dare partner with us in exploring for gas and oil in the area.
Ignoring instead China’s offer to have its resources and expertise available for oil and gas exploration on the WPS is further stagnating the country rather than reaping the benefits that will help propel the country forward and alleviate the lives of Filipinos while complementing at the same time the financial assistance China is offering to countries for their infrastructure projects. (By Jesus Sievert)