By Arjay L. Balinbin, Reporter
President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s administration wants the agreement on the joint oil and gas exploration between the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China “done as soon as possible,” noting that the Malampaya gas field is “running out in a couple of years.”
“We could see the joint exploration [agreement] done soon. ASAP (as soon as possible)…because Malampaya will be running out in a couple of years, and the market for the LNG (liquefied natural gas) is growing. The technology is already there. Several countries, including China and Japan, are interested in several projects which include the storage and how the transshipment of LNG is done,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano said in a press conference in Hong Kong on Wednesday evening, April 11.
He added: “If our legal minds – the DFA, the Department of Energy, Malacañang and some of our consultants – can come up with a framework tomorrow, I will send that to the Chinese tomorrow. If they can send it back to us the next day, and they say they agree, then you know we can start drafting the MoU or the agreement and vetting it for official ‘okay’.”
Asked what will happen now to the Service Contract 72 which is located in the disputed Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea, Mr. Cayetano said: “It will be taken into consideration. It’s in our constitution on how to harness or exploit our natural resources. The government is preparing the framework, and it really depends on what’s agreed upon.”
Mr. Cayetano likewise confirmed during the press briefing that the administration is expecting Chinese President Xi Jinping to visit the Philippines by “year end.”
“I will confirm that we have invited President Xi for a number of times and he accepted, subject to the time that’s mutually convenient. So, we are readying for the end of the year but we don’t have any final plans yet. We haven’t gotten word from them, because usually…what happens there is that they propose a date, then we say if it’s acceptable or not or we give them a couple of dates, and everything pushes through,” he said.
Mr. Cayetano explained that it is not going to be simply a meeting between President Xi and President Duterte. “There’s gonna be substantive agreements, there’s gonna be announcements, and there’s gonna be a boost in the momentum of our relationship.”