MANILA — The Philippines is working on a legal framework for a commercial deal with Beijing before it lifts a moratorium on energy exploration in the disputed South China Sea, its foreign secretary said Thursday.
Exploration at Recto Bank was suspended in 2014 when the Philippines brought China to a Hague-based arbitration court to clarify maritime entitlements in the vital waterway.
The Permanent Court of Arbitration later recognized the Philippines’ sovereign rights within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone where Recto Bank is located.
The Department of Energy is now focused on allowing oil and gas exploration in “areas that are not disputed,” said Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano.
“Dun sa disputed, marami pang kailangang gawin. Yung sa hindi disputed, parang Malampaya lang yan. Pwedeng matuloy basta masunod lang lahat ng batas,” he told reporters after defending his agency’s budget at the Senate.
(Much needs to be done in disputed areas. In non-disputed areas, it's like Malampaya. It can proceed as long as all laws are followed.)
“We will not proceed unless the legal framework, satisfied kami (we're satisfied)," he said.