By Myrna M. Velasco
The Chinese government will concur to the lifting of the moratorium on exploration of oil and gas resources within the so-called “disputed areas” if joint commercial development of the petroleum blocks would be agreed upon by both governments.
In an interview with the media on the sidelines of the 68th founding anniversary of the People’s Republic of China in Makati, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua has admitted that the lifting of the moratorium “is one of the issues that we are talking about with relevant agencies in the Philippines.”
Nevertheless, he forthrightly stated that “our position is quite clear: We are in favor of joint development and we are not in favor of unilateral development of oil and gas in disputed areas.”
He qualified that to arrive at a final decision, “it requires a government-to-government understanding.”
The Chinese envoy added “once we have that common understanding, then that will be followed by some sort of a deal on commercial development – but it should be joint development.”
Zhao stressed that “both sides are still on that stage of discussing the possibilities of having joint development.”
As this developed, Philippine Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi told reporters during the opening of the 35th ASEAN Ministers on Energy Meeting (AMEM) that exploration activities may soon advance at the petroleum block in Northwest Palawan covered by Service Contract 57.
The energy chief said agreements have already been signed between state-run Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC) and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) on their partnership deal for development initiatives at the block.
“We have already finished the documentation, the contract and already presented it to the Office of the President,” Cusi said.
Talks on the lifting of moratorium on exploration and development at petroleum blocks on what have been classified “disputed territories,” according to Cusi, are only confined on bilateral discussions between the two governments – with the Philippines led by the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“We are still studying the ways on how we are going to lift the moratorium, but I don’t want to create any speculations. We have not reached any agreement yet,” Cusi emphasized.
Further on the South China Sea issue, primarily the proposed framework on the Code of Conduct (CoC), this is also among the critical issues currently being discussed comprehensively with the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
“China is positive about maintaining stability in the South China Sea and China is going to work with ASEAN members for the formulation of Code of Conduct based on the framework that was already agreed by the 11 states,” Zhao said.
The Chinese ambassador expounded “we already agreed on the following steps – China and the ASEAN members and the relevant officials are discussing specifically how to move forward, I don’t know if there’s anything specific to be announced, but process is ongoing.”
Tags: anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, China National Offshore Oil Corporation, China sets condition on lifting of moratorium on oil/gas exploration, Chinese government, Philippine Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation, Zhao Jianhua