Locsin: Duterte has ordered to terminate PH-China joint oil and gas talks

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 23) – President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the complete termination of the Philippines-China joint oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. revealed in his speech on Thursday.

"The President had spoken. I carried out his instructions to the letter: oil and gas discussions are terminated completely. Nothing is pending; everything is over," Locsin said during the 124th anniversary of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Locsin added, "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."

Despite being embroiled in an ongoing territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippines and China signed a memorandum of understanding in 2018 to conduct a joint oil and gas exploration in the area.

In October 2020, Duterte lifted the moratorium on oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea first implemented by his predecessor Benigno Aquino III due to China's encroachment in the waters.

The Philippines won a landmark arbitral case in 2016, which invalidated China's claims in the South China Sea. Beijing, however, refuses to recognize the ruling until now.

"We had both tried to go as far as we could without renouncing China's aspiration on his part; and constitutional limitations on my part. I shut down shop completely," Locsin further elaborated on the discontinued joint oil and gas talks between the two countries.

Locsin took pride in his four-year stint as the country's top diplomat, where he stressed Manila asserted its sovereignty in the disputed waters under his watch.

"We have not surrendered a single inch of territory or a drop of our waters. Not by word or deed have we weakened our right to everything in the West Philippine Sea. Without inviting pity by asking, we achieved an international consensus that right is with us and might cannot ever take it away. In the 21st century, the first incontestable and most significant victory at sea is Filipino," said Locsin.

The Philippines lodged several diplomatic protests against China for its intrusion in territorial areas in the West Philippine Sea that are within Manila's exclusive economic zone.

CNN Philippines correspondent Tristan Nodalo contributed to this report.