DFA: Marcos, Xi want to restart talks on joint exploration in West Philippine Sea

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 24) — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday said President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Chinese President Xi Jinping wish to resume talks on possible joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea.

“Both leaders expressed their desire to restart discussions and negotiations on oil and gas issues that would include of course issues like development, etc. It was on a very general level,” DFA Secretary Enrique Manalo told CNN Philippines’ The Source.

Marcos had a bilateral meeting with his counterpart Chinese President Xi Jinping at the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Thailand this month. 

In a statement, the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Marcos expressed readiness to engage in active consultations and “find ways to advance the joint exploration of maritime oil and gas resources” in the contested waters.

To recall, the Duterte administration announced the termination of joint exploration talks with Beijing. 

The two countries signed the memorandum of understanding in 2018, but the Philippines' foreign affairs agency said the goal of developing the oil and gas resources was not achieved.

“Three years on and we had not achieved our objective of developing oil and gas resources so critical for the Philippines but not at the price of sovereignty; not even a particle of it,” former Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said.

A 2016 ruling in The Hague recognized the Philippines' sovereign rights to areas within its exclusive economic zone and invalidated China's sweeping claims over the South China Sea.

Beijing, however, continues to ignore the landmark ruling.

Meanwhile, Manalo said both leaders were on the same page when it comes to enhancing economic and development cooperation, especially when it comes to agriculture, infrastructure, energy, and pandemic response.

Both also recognized that the territorial issue in the South China Sea remains, but this will not define the relationship between the two countries.

The DFA secretary said there is still no solid commitments from Beijing, but he expects these matters to be discussed during Marcos’ state visit to China in January.