PH, China seek cooperation pact on oil deal within a year

MANILA The Philippine and Chinese governments seek to come up with a cooperation arrangement on the oil and gas exploration deal in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea within 12 months, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Thursday.

In a television interview with CNN Philippines, Locsin revealed and read parts of the Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation on Oil and Gas Development between Manila and Beijing.

"The two governments will endeavor to agree on the cooperation arrangements within 12 months of this memorandum of agreement," he said.

Locsin said the two governments are expected to establish an intergovernmental joint steering committee, and one or more working groups for the talks.

The Committee will be co-chaired by both states' foreign ministries with the participation of relevant agencies such as the Department of Energy (DOE).

Reading the MOU on air, Locsin said China authorized China National Offshore Oil Corporation as the Chinese enterprise of each working group, while the Philippines will authorize other enterprises with service contracts in the area.

Locsin is hopeful Beijing and Manila will start discussions within a year.

"I hope that they start sitting down on this and I guess (Energy Secretary Alfonso) Cusi's very concern, 'would he be allowed to lift the moratorium?'" he said.

Both the service contracts in Recto Bank and northwestern Palawan are under force majeure due to the territorial spat with Beijing.

Locsin, who declared he drafted the document, said progress on the talks will depend on the Department of Energy that has the authority to lift the moratorium with the approval of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Nevertheless, the signed MOU will serve as a master framework for future developments in the said region.

"(It) is a memorandum of understanding to arrive at an agreement," the DFA chief said. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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