China: Joint Exploration in South China Sea the “right way”

WPS Exploration Site

China has expressed its readiness to continue its joint energy exploration and development with the Philippines and the Marcos Administration as it believes it is the right way to manage maritime differences. 

China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in his briefing with local and foreign media that the joint offshore oil and gas development is the “right way for China and the Philippines to manage maritime differences and achieve win-win results without prejudice on either side’s maritime positions and claims.” 

“China stands ready to work in concert with the new Philippine government to advance negotiations on joint development and strive to take early substantive steps so as to deliver tangible benefits to both countries and peoples,” Wang said. 

“Leaders of the two countries reached an important common understanding on this. The two governments signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation (MOU) on Oil and Gas Development and have actively pursued negotiations and made important progress within this framework,” he added.

Since the Memorandum of Understanding signing in 2018, however, the Department of Energy (DOE) said that the Inter-Governmental Joint Steering Committee (IGJSC) only convened once in October 2019 and no agreement has been reached. 

“Despite this, the DOE doggedly promoted exploration in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) through the Philippine Conventional Energy Contracting Program, where it opened areas for application and nomination, reviewed bids, and issued licenses,” DOE said. 

Last week, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin said that the country terminated its joint exploration with China due to constitutional restraints and sovereignty issues. 

DOE, meanwhile, said that it’s currently coordinating with the Security, Justice, and Peace Cabinet Cluster (SJPCC) and existing service contract holders for exploration activities in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). 

“The DOE firmly stands for the assertion of Philippine sovereign rights through the promotion of exploration in the WPS.  Following the SJPCC’s suspension order and now with the termination of negotiations with China, the DOE, in coordination with the SJPCC for safety and security concerns, continues to pursue talks with existing service contract holders so they can proceed with their work programs,” DOE said in a statement on Saturday. 

In April, DOE ordered PXP Energy Corporation to put on hold its exploration activities under Service Contract (SC) 72 and 75 in the WPS. 

PXP Energy instead diverted its priority to other projects like SC40 or the North Cebu Block in the Visayas Basin.