MANILA - The Philippines will have everything to gain and nothing to lose in a joint exploration agreement with China, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Thursday.
Manila and Beijing signed a memorandum of understanding on cooperation on oil and gas development in areas including the South China Sea during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Cayetano, who drafted the statement of principles used as a basis for the deal, said he separated the articulation of oil and gas exploration from its development because the latter would be a "complicated" matter that would need lawyers with this specific expertise.
"Right now, let’s see first. Kung walang laman 'yan, anong pinag-aawayan natin?" he told ANC's Headstart.
"All of these people who are saying mawawala sa atin, hindi po mawawala. Ang problema, these people don’t look at the suffering people na inflation, ang taas ng presyo ng langis, walang trabaho ang mga tao. This is a game changer for us. We lose nothing and gain everything," he said.
Calls are mounting, with Vice President Leni Robredo and several senators joining the clamor, for the release of documents pertaining to the 29 deals signed during Xi's visit.
Cayetano said the government cannot do a "document dump" and release everything all at once this quickly, emphasizing that "there is a process" to be followed.
But he insisted, critics were only "speculating" that there was a clause in the memorandum that Chinese laws would apply if it falls through.
It is also not true that the Philippines' natural resources would be the collateral in these deals, he said.
THE NEW MALAMPAYA?
Of the 29 deals signed during Xi's visit, Cayetano said most important were those for the Belt and Road Initiative and the joint exploration for oil and gas.
Sampaguita well, located in the disputed Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea, is projected to have deposits "the same or 3 times bigger than Malampaya," the gas field off Palawan currently providing some 40 percent of energy in Luzon, said Cayetano.
The reserves in Malapaya, however, is feared to deplete around 2027, according to the former Cabinet secretary. So if the projection about the well is correct, then there would no longer be a need to import oil and gas and Luzon will be "self-sufficient."