MANILA—President Rodrigo Duterte on Thursday said he doesn’t see anything wrong with China’s proposal to share oil resources in the West Philippine Sea, as long as Manila gets the bigger share.
“And they have proposed a 60-40 (split). OK na ’yan para sa akin (That’s OK with me), but that could be a later topic if we have time,” Duterte told reporters at Malacañang.
The President is scheduled to visit China later this month — the fifth time since he assumed office in 2016 — to discuss maritime issues with President Xi Jinping.
Duterte said he plans to pursue the sharing deal, as he brings up Manila’s 2016 arbitral victory, which invalidated China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea.
The 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague made clear that the potentially oil-rich Recto (Reed) Bank is within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), the West Philippine Sea.
China does not recognize the ruling and has instead ramped up its militarization in the vital waterway.
In November 2018, the Philippines and China signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for oil and gas exploration during Xi’s state visit to the Philippines.
At the time, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. described the MOU as an “agreement to agree.”
Earlier this year, Duterte signed an executive order making it easier for the government to enter into oil exploration and development deals with third parties.