January 13, 2023
MANILA — China is still committed to look for ways for maritime cooperation despite the Philippine Supreme Court’s ruling that voided a 2005 oil exploration agreement in the West Philippine Sea.
“China remains committed to properly handle maritime disputes in the South China Sea with countries directly concerned, including the Philippines, through dialogue and consultation, and to actively explore ways for practical maritime cooperation including joint exploration,” China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in a press conference on Wednesday.
Wang noted that during Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.’s state visit to Beijing, the latter and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to resume joint oil and gas exploration negotiations.
The Philippine Supreme Court recently declared void and unconstitutional a 2005 agreement that allowed the Philippines, China, and Vietnam to conduct joint oil search in the West Philippine Sea in the contested South China Sea.
“During Philippine President Marcos’s recent visit to China, the two sides agreed to bear in mind the spirit of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation on Oil and Gas Development signed in 2018 and resume discussions on oil and gas development at an early date, building upon the outcomes of the previous talks, with a view of benefiting the two countries and their peoples,” Wang said.
According to Wang, the joint oil exploration deal was a vital step to implement the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) in the South China Sea.
“It was an important step by the three countries to implement the DOC and a useful experiment for maritime cooperation between parties to the South China Sea. It played an important role in promoting stability, cooperation and development in the region,” he said.
Aside from the Philippines, China, and Vietnam, other nations that are claimants of the South China Sea are Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.