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Baka lumamang sila! Noy rejects joint WPS exploration with China

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By Xave Gregorio

Former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is not in favor of the Philippines entering into a joint exploration of the West Philippine Sea with China, saying Manila has no obligation to share anything with Beijing.

“Exclusive economic zone (EEZ) ang pinaguusapan eh. Parang wala tayong obligasyon na makihati sa kanila,” Aquino said Wednesday (August 1) in a chance interview at the sidelines of the ninth death anniversary of her mother, former President Corazon Aquino.

“Noong panahon ko may joke eh. Sabi raw ng China, it’s a joke, ‘yung, ‘What is ours is ours, and what is yours, we share.’ So ngayon, parang nagiging totoo na rin ata ito,” he said.

Under the UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea, a country has special rights on the exploration and use of marine resources in the EEZ, a sea zone which stretches 200 nautical miles from the coastline.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said yesterday China is open to a joint gas and oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea, where it would take 40 percent of the revenues, while the Philippines would take the remaining 60 percent.

Cayetano said the draft agreement, which would be scrutinized by both countries “line by line,” would be out by September.

However, Aquino is wary that China may end up taking a much bigger chunk from the joint exploration of the disputed waters, part of which forms part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

“Tapos kapag nagumpisa kang [ang] bargaining position [mo] 60-40, baka naman sa hulihan, kapag pumayag dito [sa joint exploration] eh baligtad. Baka sila 60 [percent] o baka sila 70 [percent,]” Aquino said.

Talks of joint explorations with China were opened during the Aquino administration, but did not push through.

The Philippines had previously entered into a joint exploration with China and Vietnam, another claimant country to the West Philippine Sea, under the Arroyo administration through the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU). The JMSU, deemed unconstitutional by critics, lapsed in 2008.

President Rodrigo Duterte had long been pushing for a joint exploration of the West Philippine Sea with China, saying he is not “crazy” to let Filipino soldiers die in defending the country’s rights over the disputed waters.

In 2016, an international arbitral tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines and voided China’s nine-dash line claim which encompassed nearly all of the West Philippine Sea.