The Daily Manila Shimbun


Duterte may forge “commercial deal” with China for joint exploration of disputed territories: Cayetano

August 15, 2017

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said President Rodrigo Duterte may forge a “commercial deal” with China for joint exploration in the disputed territories at the West Philippine Sea.

Cayetano told  the House committee on foreign affairs on the West Philippine Sea on Tuesday  this agreement will be within the ambit of the Constitution without compromising the country’s territorial integrity.

"We are working now on the possibility of joint exploration and development. We assure any legal framework that we may come up will conform with local laws and Constitution," Cayetano said. .

"We can come up with a commercial deal that is better than Malampaya in the disputed areas. How can any Filipino argue with that? If the deal is bad or worse, why should we go into it? It cannot violate the Constitution," said Cayetano.

In a press conference, Albay Rep.  Edcel Lagman and Magdalo party-list  Rep. Gary Alejano  warned against such a joint exploration.

"This is contrary to our Constitution because these areas should be exclusively for the Filipinos," said Lagman.

Alejano said “our laws should apply.  We should be vigilant about it."

The committee held an executive hearing Tuesday and will conduct another one this Wednesday afternoon.

Cayetano cited the need to strengthen mutual trust between China and the Philippines.

"We won that. The problem was enforcement. The problem was mutual trust. There was no opportunity to talk to China because we had consistent confrontations with them. So we won the legal, but on the ground, we were going nowhere,"said Cayetano.

Cayetano defended Duterte's position not to push for the implementation of the country’s arbitral victory against China.

"It is not true that the president threw in the waste basket, tore it up or whatever the arbitration award. He only told Chinese President Xi Jinping, there will be a time that I will bring that up, but for us to talk, to build mutual trust and to move forward, I will not bring it up yet," said Cayetano.

"So, if we're going to be aggressive towards them because of the national territory issue, we will lose out in trade, investments, and tourism," said Cayetano.

"So with that, there's no agreement. We will not compromise our territorial integrity just to get tourists, just to get the foreign investments. So really the work is a balancing act," Cayetano added.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a budget hearing Monday night he is confident China will abide by a “modus vivendi” brokered by Cayetano with China.

“There is status quo now that is happening in the South China Sea  brokered by the Secretary of Foreign Affairs. According to him, the Chinese will not occupy new features in the South China Sea nor they are going to build structures in Scarborough Shoal,” said Lorenzana.

However, Alejano said his “sources in the military said since three days ago , China has deployed 2 frigates, 1 Coast Guard vessel, 2 large fishing vessels, with their maritime militia 1-3 nautical miles north of Pag-asa Island.”

Alejano said two days ago, a Philippine government ship from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources was prevented by Chinese fishing vessels from going near our sand bars located generally west of Pag-asa Island, around 2-7 miles away.”

Lorenzana said the military will not take what Alejano describes as “extraordinary activities” of Chinese ships in the Pag-asa island lightly. DMS