MANILA - A legal victory invalidating China's claims to the West Philippine Sea "can't be set aside" as Beijing and Manila hammer out a deal for exploring oil and gas reserves believed to be sitting deep beneath the waterway, Malacañang said Friday.
President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday that for the joint exploration to push through, Chinese President Xi Jinping wants the Philippines to ignore a United Nations-backed court's 2016 ruling that junked Beijing's claim over nearly 90 percent of the sea.
"From the very beginning, sinasabi na ni Presidente iyong (the President has said the) arbitral ruling is final, binding and unappealable," said Duterte's spokesperson and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo.
"It's forever. It cannot be set aside, it will always be there," he added.
Technical working committees from the 2 countries will talk about the terms of reference, condition and scope of the joint exploration, Panelo told radio DZMM.
"Marami pang pag-uusapan... Under study lahat iyan," he said, adding that he did not when 2 sides would meet.
(A lot will still be discussed. All that is under study.)
China would be "gracious enough" to give the Philippines 60 percent of the profits from the oil exploration, Duterte earlier said, quoting Xi.
Duterte earlier refused to refused to flaunt the ruling sought by his predecessor, Benigno Aquino III, and instead repaired diplomatic ties with Beijing.
Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier proposed several "non-war" options to enforce Manila's legal victory against Beijing’s environmentally destructive activities in the disputed waters, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes each year.