MANILA - The oil and gas exploration deal that the Philippines and China signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit here was "essentially" Manila's version of the agreement, an envoy said Wednesday.
Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Sta. Romana made the statement as several lawmakers expressed concern over the deal the country inked with China, with which it has been locked in a dispute over the South China Sea.
The oil and gas development deal is known to cover areas within the contested waters.
Sta. Romana said the signed deal is "significantly different" from the supposed draft earlier released by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, an administration critic.
The envoy explained that Beijing presented its own draft of the deal, which was reviewed and vetted by Philippine officials.
"The one that was signed was essentially the Philippine counter-draft with some new revisions and is significantly different from what Senator Trillanes released," Sta. Romana told ANC.
He noted that Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. played a "major role" in coming up with Manila's counter-draft.
The Philippines and China on Tuesday signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation on oil and gas development.
Asked for details about the deal, Sta. Romana said it is a "prelude to a more specific agreement for exploring and finding out if there really is oil and gas that can be exploited in the future."
"An effort has been made to come to an agreement and to be able to present it to the public and to be able to face the test of judicial scrutiny and constitutionality," Sta. Romana said.
He added that the said deal would pave the way for the creation of a commission composed of foreign affairs and energy officials from Beijing and Manila to handle the joint exploration efforts.
Xi, the first Chinese leader to hold a state visit in Manila in 13 years, left the country Wednesday afternoon after sealing 29 deals and securing an agreement with Duterte to elevate relations between the Philippines and China into a strategic cooperation.
Malacañang has assured the public that all documents related to Xi's visit would be released to the public.
"We assure everyone that the government [will] release all pertinent information for public consumption once President Xi's visit has culminated, and as soon as the complete, proper, and correct documents become certified and available," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.