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Cayetano: China open to 60-40 split on joint exploration


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China has expressed its willingness to conduct a 60-40 joint exploration of natural resources with the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said the 60 percent would be for the Philippines while the remaining will be for China.

"That's our starting proposition and our Chinese counterparts are open to it," Cayetano said in a 24 Oras report by JP Soriano.

Cayetano said concerned authorities are still creating the framework agreement for the possible joint exploration, adding that officials from the Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Chinese officials, and international law experts would meet to discuss the issue.

"Hopefully this August, latest September will be at that stage... that we can exchange drafts, but even when we exchange it that's our level 'di ba? In our side irereview pa 'yan siguro ng Sol Gen (Solicitor General), ng ES (Executive Secretary) then OP (Office of the President) so it's quite a process," Cayetano said.

Cayetano noted that there is still no final region in the West Philippine Sea in which the possible joint exploration will be conducted.

However, the Philippine government previously said that S-C 72 in Reed Bank may be a possible area for the joint exploration.

Security analyst Rommel Banlaoi deemed this as a "breakthrough," but he still reminded the government to make sure this development would show the Philippines asserting its sovereign rights in the region.

"Dapat maipakita natin na ito ay isang exercise ng ating sovereign rights at hindi tayo nagkokompromiso sa China at wala tayong ginigive-up na kahit anong karapatan natin sa area na 'yan. Otherwise mapagdududahan 'yung arrangement natin with China," Banlaoi said.

There have been concerns that the joint exploration is a violation of the Philippine Constitution, but Malacañang previously pointed out that it is legal.

In 2016, the Philippines won an arbitration case filed by the Aquino administration invalidating China's nine-dash line claim over South China Sea.

Beijing has refused to recognize the ruling.

Ties between the two countries warmed under President Rodrigo Duterte, who has said that China will be a great partner in the government's infrastructure and economic problems.

There have been reports that China has continued to militarize some areas in the contested region.

Duterte has said the Philippines could not afford to go to war with China over the disputed territories, saying it would probably result in great destruction and losses on the part of the military. —Anna Felicia Bajo/JST, GMA News

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