The Philippines and China agreed to form a panel that will develop a framework on the possible joint exploration in the disputed West Philippine Sea.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said during a recent interview with Bloomberg HongKong there were no discussions with China on the joint exploration during the recent trip of President Rodrigo Duterte for the Boao Forum, but the creation of the panel had been long agreed upon.
“There was no discussion about the joint exploration but what we have agreed even prior to that trip... to compose a panel that would develop a framework on how to move forward,” Cusi said.
Cusi said both parties were “rushing” the completion of the framework “so we can move forward.”
“This joint exploration in the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea is very important for us to ensure our energy development and national security for energy,” he said.
Cusi said the framework was a “very complex” issue and that the Philippines wanted it to be completed within the year because “we want to harness the potential of the area.”
“There is a moratorium in the exploration in the West Philippine Sea and we are just awaiting for the resolution of this framework so that we can move forward. So maybe some of this people are already speculating,” Cusi said.
The Energy Department in 2017 sought the help of the Foreign Affairs Department for the lifting of the moratorium on oil and gas drilling at the West Philippine Sea amid the impending depletion of the Malampaya gas reserves in the next decade.
“We are doing this with a sense of urgency because we need it for our national energy security but we are very being analytical, being very careful to make sure that we do the correct,” Cusi said.
Cusi said the department was waiting for the signal from the Foreign Affairs regarding talks with China for a possible joint development at the West Philippine Sea.
“What will trigger (the lifting of the moratorium) is confidence building on both sides. We develop the trust but trust must be supported with concrete actions... So we have to get that so that once we lift, no any untoward action that can happen,” the energy chief said.
“DFA and DoE are working together so that we can resume work at the contested areas and we are looking for ways... to move forward that is a win-win for all,” he said.