MANILA, Philippines – As tensions between the Philippines and China continue to escalate over the massive reclamation of the economic giant in disputed territory, Vice President Jejomar Binay reiterated he will foster better relations with China under his presidency.
Binay made the reiteration on Friday night, April 24, in an interview with media in Jakarta, Indonesia, where he attended the Asian-African Summit.
Asked how he would handle the South China Sea row if elected president, Binay said: "We will start with our premise, that is, let's have good and better trade relations and then it must not be affected by the claim of ownership over the property."
Binay again spoke about his proposed "joint venture" with China, an idea he had mentioned in a radio interview on April 12. (READ: Binay: 'China has money, we need capital')
When asked to elaborate, he said his proposed scheme would be like "just any ordinary business transaction" involving the joint development of a "property."
He said under his presidency, there will be a continuation of the claim "over those properties, but at the same time we hope we can create a situation where there can be more improved bilateral relations with China especially on the issue of trade."
"We have to accept the fact that China has all the capital and we have the property over there, so why don't we try to develop that property as a joint venture?" Binay added.
On whether his proposed scheme is possible, the Vice President said, "Why not?"
Asked if he was, in fact, expressing openness to a possible Philippines-China joint venture for oil and gas exploration in disputed areas in the South China Sea, Binay said he saw nothing wrong with the prospect.
"What's wrong with that? There's a property. We are in need of capitalization, we need a lot of investors, we hope to continue and attract investors. One of our biggest problems is how to attract investors, to have a better economy," he said.
Binay added, "In other words, let me say that the issue of ownership must not be a problem to have good trade relations."
The proposed scheme is reminiscent of the Philippines' Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) with Vietnam and China executed during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. (READ: SC asked: Void expired PH-China offshore oil exploration pact)
The exploration agreement, which the government had voided, covered disputed territories, and was seen as a threat to the Philippines' claim to these areas. Some groups want the Supreme Court to void the multilateral pact to prevent a repeat in the future.
Binay also volunteered that in the Philippines, there are moves to amend economic provisions in the Constitution "in order to attract more investors."
Binay has publicly bared his support for amending the economic provision in the 1987 Constitution that limits foreign ownership of local companies to 40%, which he believed deterred the entry of more foreign investments in the country.
Binay remains the frontrunner in voters' preference polls for presidential candidates, despite allegations of corruption when he was Makati mayor. – Rappler.com