MANILA — Former Foreign Affairs secretary Albert del Rosario on Friday hailed President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision to restart petroleum exploration in the West Philippine Sea, paving the way for three projects to resume.
Del Rosario, who led the Philippines' arbitration bid that culminated in victory in 2016, said the country’s move is a “step in the right direction” in settling the issue in the disputed area.
He added that he doesn’t see any problem with China working with the country to jointly develop energy projects as long as it is in line with the law.
“For as long as we pursue activities with China that [are] in accordance with Philippine law, this would be a step in the right direction towards a peaceful settlement of disputes,” he said.
Del Rosario described Duterte’s move as constructive.
“[President Duterte’s] lifting of the moratorium on oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea is, we believe, a constructive move,” he said.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi on Friday said the government's decision to lift a 6-year-old moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the disputed sea was a unilateral move.
Cusi said there was no prohibition on ending the moratorium unilaterally and hoped it could expedite projects and help the Philippines address energy security issues.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian hoped that the lifting of the moratorium would lead to a joint venture between the two countries.
"I hope and believe that the two sides will meet each other halfway, promote joint development, and continue to make positive progress," Zhao said. -- With reports from Reuters