Latin America

Duterte envoy De Venecia proposes joint development with China

Pia Ranada
Duterte envoy De Venecia proposes joint development with China
At the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, Duterte envoy Jose de Venecia Jr suggests turning the South China Sea into a 'zone of friendship'

BEIJING, China – Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s special envoy proposed the joint development of oil and natural gas resources by China and Southeast Asian countries in the disputed South China Sea. 

Special Envoy for Intercultural Dialogue Jose de Venecia Jr made this proposal in front of world leaders on Sunday, May 14, at the Belt and Road Forum, a two-day event hosted by Chinese President Xi Jinping himself

De Venecia said on Sunday, “It is obvious as members of the ASEAN family that today, with China, we must find ways and means to jointly develop the area’s hydrocarbon potential to help lessen our common dependence on distant petroleum sources in the Middle East.”

To prove such a proposal already had precedence, De Venecia cited the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU), in which the Philippines, Vietnam, and China agreed to conduct joint explorations in the South China Sea. 

The JMSU was signed by the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the early 2000s. Back then, De Venecia was speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives – a post he held under two presidents, from 1992 to 1998 and from 2001 to 2008.

‘Zone of friendship’ sought

The JMSU, however, was criticized for supposedly putting the Philippine government at a disadvantage since up to 80% of the JMSU site was inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

In 2008, a petition was filed against the JMSU before the Supreme Court.

Philippine Ambassador to China Chito Santa Romana earlier said the Philippines should push for better trade with China “knowing the lessons of the Joint Maritime Seismic Undertaking,” among other things.

De Venecia insisted, however, that joint development of the disputed sea would turn the South China Sea into a “zone of friendship.”

“Look at the potential for peace, excellencies, for the economic development in the heartland of the South China Sea,” he said.

“Small sea ports, airports, oil pipelines, small tourism townships, and fishing villages, in the spirit of the Silk Road, can rapidly rise in the contested areas once converted into a zone of friendship,” said De Venecia.

Proposing a 3rd route

Toward the end of his passionate speech, De Venecia also proposed the addition of a 3rd route in China’s proposed 21st Century Maritime Silk Road, one of two components of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

This 3rd route would encompass the 250-year-old Manila-Acapulco galleon trade route. Such a route could expand the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road to include Australia and Latin America. 

“The proposed 21st century 3rd route, hopefully an enlargement of the Silk Road of China, will make China’s celebrated Belt and Road Initiative almost globally inclusive,” said De Venecia. 

Duterte and his delegation are already in Beijing for the two-day Belt and Road Forum. However, he did not attend the opening ceremony where Xi and other leaders gave speeches.

His first BRI event will be the welcome dinner on Sunday evening, to be held at the Great Hall of the People. –

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Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at