MANILA - A maritime law expert believes the Philippines and China are still in a "stalemate" on the South China Sea issue despite a go-signal from the leaders of both countries for a joint exploration framework in the disputed waters.
Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs and Law of the Sea, said the announcement made by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano was just a reiteration of previous pronouncements.
"I think that basically both parties are still at a stalemate in a way because they both indicated their positions, their very strong positions, respectively, Chinese side, Philippine side. Unfortunately for them there seems to be no area of compromise yet. That's why they still have to keep talking," he said Friday.
Last Wednesday, Cayetano announced that President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jin Ping briefly discussed a possible joint exploration between their countries in the South China Sea.
“If our legal minds… can come up with a framework tomorrow, I will send that to the Chinese tomorrow,” the country's top diplomat said.
Duterte and Xi met at the sidelines of the Boao Forum in the Chinese province of Hainan.
Batongbacal said it would be ideal for the Philippines to resume oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea without China. He said there is a need for the Philippines to find other sources of energy to prevent an energy shortage.
"We have three other service contracts and these service contract areas include places which are not even claimed by China, they’re outside the nine-dash line. At minimum, we should resume exploration in those areas because we have to find an alternative we have to find the next source for Malampaya," he explained.
--report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News