MANILA – China and the Philippines said on Monday they were negotiating possibilities to jointly explore the disputed waters of the South China Sea for oil and gas.
Talks are progressing in a positive direction, Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin said after a bilateral meeting with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, in Davao, the third largest city of the Philippines.
“While recognizing our differences and never compromising our respective core interests, we continue to discuss and explore avenues for maritime cooperation,” Locsin said in a joint press conference with Wang.
After the meeting, the two ministers witnessed the signing of agreements for the construction of a bridge in Davao City, funded by China, and on humanitarian assistance in emergencies, the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines said.
China and the Philippines have been negotiating an agreement to explore and extract in the South China Sea, in an area which has strong Chinese military presence and whose sovereignty is claimed by several countries in the region.
In March, the Philippine government had said it was in talks with a Chinese state-run enterprise for a joint exploration of water resources surrounding the Spratly Islands and the Scarborough Atoll, which the Court for Arbitration at The Hague had awarded to the Philippines in 2016, although Beijing never accepted the ruling.
“As China has been supportive of our national development goals, we support China’s initiatives to promote shared prosperity and cooperation throughout the region and the world as many other nations do,” said Locsin, the Philippines’ ambassador to the United Nations had.
Wang asserted that China will always be a “sincere, trustworthy friend” of the Philippines and will continue to help it to speed up its economic and social development.
China’s bilateral trade with the Philippines reached $50 billion in 2017.