Gov’t wants PHL-China WPS deal sealed before Duterte term ends

While China and the Philippines agreed not to rush the negotiations on the joint exploration and development in the West Philippine Sea, the Duterte administration is keen on starting the partnership before the term of President Rodrigo Duterte ends.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano relayed this to China State Counsellor Wang Yi during his trip to Beijing last week.

“We talked some of the details. We agreed not to have a deadline but we agreed to work on it with an ASAP (as soon as possible) mentality so that we can get it done,” he told reporters in an ambush interview on Wednesday.

“Of course, I explained to them that in the Philippines, we have a six-year term. It’s difficult when you have projects that will last more than three or four, five years to do it at the end of an administration because we want the people to feel the benefit as soon as possible,” he added.

Cayetano said the exploration can be done within a year or less, but the actual development and the putting up of oil rigs will take several years to finish.

“As you know, the exploration can be done quickly, maybe a year or less than a year, but the development, putting up the oil rigs takes several years and we only have (until) 2028 to find replacement and maybe a replacement that can produce even more oil and gas than Malampaya,” he said.

In early August, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the establishment of a technical working group (TWG) on the Philippines-China joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea.

MalacaƱang is hopeful a draft on the cooperation will be crafted before the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to the Philippines, which is expected in November.

The TWG will have representatives from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources; for oil and gas, the Department of Energy; for security, the Department of National Defense, National Security Council, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

There will also be a legal team, composed of the Department of Justice and the Office of the Solicitor General, to advise and help in the negotiation stage.