Leni against exploration with China in WPS, Isko open


Vice President Leni Robredo said she will not purse any oil exploration venture with China in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) should she win the presidency in next year’s elections.

Speaking at an online forum on Thursday, she said would only reconsider her position if China accepts the 2016 arbitral ruling invalidating the Asian giant’s claim to over 80% of the South China Sea, which includes the WPS.

Robredo, who has consistently denounced the Duterte administration’s foreign policy pivot towards China, stressed the need for an inclusive and independent foreign policy as against “one that favors certain countries.”

The 2016 ruling particularly upholds the Philippines’ 200-mile exclusive economic zone claim under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The administration of the late Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III filed the case before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Netherlands in 2013 following continuous intrusions by China in the WPS.

In contrast, Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, who is also seeking the country’s top post, said in another online event on Wednesday that he would be open to having joint exploration ventures with China.

Moreno said he would take that route arguing that the Philippines doesn’t have the capacity to extract oil and natural gas from the WPS for now.

He added that whatever would be extracted from the WPS would be used to finance the country’s development. Supposing the Philippines gets 40% of the extracted oil, Moreno said half of the proceeds would fund the Philippine Navy, while the rest would be used to lower fuel prices and electricity rates.

Back in July, the Department of Energy (DOE) said it would implement a 60-40 sharing scheme for joint explorations with China in the WPS as a way of upholding the Philippines’ territorial claims. This came even as Pres. Rodrigo Duterte called the 2016 arbitral ruling “just a piece of paper” to be thrown away.

The DOE also said it is eyeing the drilling of five wells in the WPS following the lifting of the exploration moratorium in the area exactly a year ago.