The Philippines must find a way to explore for oil and gas in the South China Sea even without a deal with China, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said yesterday, emphasizing his country’s right to exploit energy reserves in the contested waterway, in which Taiwan has claims.
“That’s a big thing for us, that is why we need to fight [for what is ours] and take advantage if there really is oil there,” Marcos told reporters.
Talks over joint energy exploration between Manila and Beijing in the South China Sea had been terminated, the previous government said in June, citing constitutional constraints and issues of sovereignty.
“That’s the roadblock, it is hard to see how we can resolve that. I think there might be other ways so it does not have to be G-to-G [government-to-government],” he said.
The Chinese embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Marcos’ remarks came after his foreign affairs secretary said in August that Manila was open to new talks with China on oil and gas exploration, and that a deal with China or any other country must comply with Philippine law.
The Philippines relies heavily on imported fuel for its energy needs, making it vulnerable to supply shocks and rising oil prices, which have helped increase inflation to a near-14-year high.
During a three-day visit last week, US Vice President Kamala Harris affirmed US defense commitments to the Philippines and reiterated support for a 2016 arbitration ruling that invalidated Beijing’s South China Sea claims.
The ruling, which China refused to recognize, says that the Philippines has sovereign rights to exploit energy reserves inside its 322km exclusive economic zone.
“We will have something more concrete” to announce by early next year about US proposals to access Philippine military bases under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, Marcos said yesterday.
Washington has proposed adding more sites to the current five under the agreement, which allows for the rotation of US military ships and aircraft at mutually agreed bases.
Philippine firm PXP Energy Corp — which holds an exploration permit in the Reed Bank (Lile Bank, 禮樂灘), a disputed area that Taiwan also claims — has had talks with China National Offshore Oil Corp on a joint venture.
However, Manila’s and Beijing’s conflicting claims have prevented it from undertaking further drilling and reaching a deal.
Additional reporting by staff writer
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