ENERGY SECRETARY Alfonso G. Cusi said his office has notified the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to initiate discussions on how to proceed with activity in the disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea, or South China Sea.
“Instead of us sitting and waiting, I myself called for the start of the negotiation immediately,” Alfonso G. Cusi, secretary of the Department of Energy (DoE) told reporters on Wednesday night in an informal gathering.
“How did we give notice to China? Through DFA (the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs),” he said. “I want it immediately.”
DoE Assistant Secretary Gerardo D. Erguiza, who was tasked to attend to the details by Mr. Cusi, said “We have advised the DFA.”
“We will wait for the timing,” he added.
Mr. Erguiza said he has spoken with his counterpart at the DFA, and the department is currently gathering “details” required under the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the Philippines and China.
On Nov. 22 after the visit of China’s President Xi Jinping to the Philippines, Mr. Cusi said the two countries were to hold immediate discussions to arrive at a common position on the joint exploration within the disputed offshore areas.
He said that under the MoU, the two sides had to sit down and come up with their position within one year.
Mr. Erguiza said oil and gas development with China has to take place within the framework of the service contract system of the Philippines, which he said was also explained by DFA Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr.
“(The MoU) sets forth the elements of the Philippines jurisdiction,” he said. “It clearly stated also that it shall conform with international law, the UN charter, the UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea) [and the] South China Sea-related agreements,” he said.
He declined to say whether the framework leads to joint exploration by the two countries, but said only that it sets forth how the two countries could “work together towards being able to have an activity, a fruitful endeavor regarding these areas covered by service contracts.”
He said China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) is China’s representative to a technical working group, while the Philippines is represented by the private corporations and the service contractors.
“These are corporations working, maybe, for profit. They need to decide what’s best for them,” he said. “On our part, at least we were able to come out with a framework that is acceptable to us, apparently acceptable to China also because it was signed,” he said.
He said Mr. Cusi would have wanted the formal discussions with the DFA to take place in December but Mr. Locsin will be out of the country. — Victor V. Saulon