Cayetano to visit Beijing to discuss WPS joint exploration framework

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano is scheduled to visit Beijing to discuss the crafting of a framework on the Philippine-China joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea.

“I’m working with our working group now. I’ve been informed that they already have their working group so when I go to Beijing, we will be discussing a framework,” he told reporters in an interview in Pasay City.

“I am suggesting that we speak first about joint exploration because in exploration, you do not extract anything yet, you find out what’s there.”

Asked for specific dates, the official said he will announce soon, but noted he is primarily visiting to assist the economic team to follow up the country’s engagements with China.

“It’s a trip with the economic team to be able to speed up all of our engagements, projects, investments, loans with China which we also do with Japan. This is primarily their trip but I will definitely take up the things the president asked me to take up.”

President Rodrigo Duterte recently gave his go-signal on the creation of a technical working group to discuss ways in benefitting from resources in the South China Sea while China and the Philippines have yet settle overlapping territorial claims in the area.

On latest development, Cayetano said discussions are on schedule. “I’m still hoping that we can get to sign something this September that will allow the exploration.”

He said any concerns will soon be taken care of if a deal is formed as agreed by both parties.

“I’ve been sitting down with foreign and local experts and they are confident that a joint exploration and a joint development will not in anyway violate our Constitution or not in anyway damage or give away or do anything negative to our arbitration award.”

Meanwhile, President Duterte was briefed that the reports about China warning a Philippine military aircraft while flying over its man-made islands in the West Philippine Sea is “routine.”

“We told the President this is routine. We continue to tell anyone who goes into our waters or fly over that you are in the Philippine territory,” Cayetano said when asked to comment about the chief executive calling out on China to temper its behavior in the West Philippine Sea.

“The president still gave us instructions that you know, continue the diplomacy and tell them that there should be a better way of staking our claim and talking to each other,” he added.

Last Monday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said an investigation will be conducted if the Chinese military has repeatedly ordered the Philippine military aircraft to “leave immediately or you will bear responsibility for all the consequences”.

The Chinese military also reportedly issued a warning to a US military aircraft which conducted similar overflights over the South China Sea, with a media crew tagging along.

In a diplomatic manner, voices from the radio can be heard telling off US military aircraft pilots that China has “sovereignty of the Nashan Islands, Spratlys including its adjacent waters”. PNA