Palace open to joint exploration of Spratlys

By Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 16 2011 05:14 PM | Updated as of Jun 17 2011 06:59 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang is open to the possibility of a joint exploration of the Spratlys with claimant countries but said it is still “premature” to discuss this, pending the resolution of territorial claims.
Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang was reacting to the proposal of former House Speaker Jose de Venecia for the Philippines to enter into a joint exploration agreement with the claimant countries.
"I think it’s premature to talk about that right now. Hindi pa nga natin nalilinaw sa lahat ng mga bansa kung ano yung teritoryo natin at kung ano ang considered disputed. Marami pa tayong kailangang ayusin. Kailangan pa nating makipag-usap sa ibang mga bansa sa [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] (ASEAN) so it’s not the right time to talk about that right now," he said.

He said Malacañang is open to a proposal wherein resources in the disputed areas can be jointly explored and jointly exploited by the different claimants.

"But it’s far ahead into the future—kailangan pa muna natin linawin sa lahat ng mga bansa ‘yung mga issue na pinag-uusapan ngayon like Reed Bank, Spratlys, may Code of Conduct tayo na isinusulong na hindi pa naman binding sa ngayon—so there are many steps that have to be taken at this point before we could seriously discuss the proposal of the former speaker," he said.

Carandang also commented on the proposal of Sen. Ed Angara for the Philippines to form a diplomatic team that will negotiate with other Asian countries for a peaceful resolution of the Spratlys dispute.

“Well, we’ve already been doing that. In the previous Asean summits, in the bilateral that President Aquino has been having with ASEAN countries, he has been explaining our position on Kalayaan Islands and Reed Bank to the other ASEAN countries. They have pledged their support but we still need to bring everybody together on ultimately some kind of a, kumbaga, ground rules: how will we address these issues in a way that is acceptable to all parties? So we have been actually over the last several months engaging our ASEAN partners in trying to come up with a common position on the issues in the South China Sea. So Sen. Angara’s suggestions are well-taken and in fact we’ve already been doing that,” Carandang said.