China and the Philippines agreed to undertake the joint exploration deal in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) “on a commercial basis” that does not need factoring in the territorial claims of both countries, National Security Adviser (NSA) Hermogenes Esperon Jr. said yesterday.
Esperon said the government agreed to set aside the ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) that favored the Philippines in its claims over the West Philippine Sea (WPS) in order to exploit Recto Bank.
“By putting to the side the arbitral ruling, we can come to an agreement to exploit Recto Bank on a commercial basis. PNOC (Philippine National Oil Co.) and CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corp) can sign the agreement where 60 percent (goes to the Philippines, which was) the same share that we get from Malampaya,” Esperon said in a text message to Daily Tribune.
Urgent need for energy
“In other words, territorial rights and sovereignty claims of both countries remain, but we agree to put it aside so that we can benefit from the riches of the seabed beneath our EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” he added.
The official said the need to exploit Recto Bank is getting stronger by the minute as natural gas deposits in Malampaya will be good for only four more years.
“Malampaya gas feeds our power plants in Batangas. Before this is depleted, we must be able to tap Recto Bank. Otherwise, we will have serious power problems in the very near future,” Esperon said.
At the same time, he said that, as Cabinet members, they are bound to give inputs to this important undertaking for the Filipino people.
Esperon said he and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana need not be in the negotiating or steering committee in the exploration venture.
“(But) we can also be in the Cabinet oversight committee,” he said.
He also allayed fears by some that the country will be at a disadvantage because of the deal.
“Shell and Chevron are there. Is it because they are Western oil companies? we are not saying anything?” he asked.
Chinese President Xi Jinping told President Rodrigo Duterte he will agree to the proposed cooperative venture and give the Philippines 60 percent share in the projects if the Permanent Court of Arbitration award that favored the Philippines will not be invoked.
“Set aside your claim… They want to explore and if there is something, they said, ‘We would be gracious enough to give you 60 percent.’ Forty (percent) would be theirs. That was the promise of Xi Jinping,” the President told reporters in a recent briefing.
Yet, China agreed to the talks proceeding despite the arbitral issue not being settled.