MANILA – The Philippines and China said Wednesday they agreed to "push forward" communication and coordination for joint oil and gas development, hoping to achieve "progress."
The two countries "confirmed" the establishment of the Oil and Gas Development Inter-Governmental Joint Steering Committee during the meeting in Beijing, the two governments said in a joint statement.
The meeting was an offshoot of a Memorandum of Understanding that Manila and Beijing signed in November last year for possible oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea.
"The committee had a candid, in-depth and friendly exchange on cooperation arrangements under the MOU and agreed to further push forward communication and coordination on oil and gas development, with a view to achieving progress in accordance with the MOU," the joint statement said.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Policy Enrique Manalo and Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui were present during the first meeting. A second meeting will take place in early 2020, the statement said.
President Rodrigo Duterte earlier said he was amenable to a 60-40 sharing deal with China in favor of the Philippines should the joint exploration push through.
Vice President Leni Robrero on Monday said Beijing must first recognize Manila’s "ownership and sovereignty" over the West Philippine Sea before the joint oil and gas exploration project.
Less than a month after Duterte took over from former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III in mid-2016, the UN-backed Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in favor of a protest filed by the Aquino government and invalidated China's vast claims to the resource-rich waters.
Duterte refused to flaunt the ruling and instead sought closer economic and political ties with China under his foreign policy pivot away from the US.
-- with a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News