Locsin says arbitral ruling 'unnecessary' in joint exploration with China

MANILA, Philippines – Foreign Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin Jr said on Wednesday, September 11, the 2016 Hague ruling on the West Philippine Sea would be "unnecessary" in joint oil and gas explorations as the activity would be carried out without prejudice to legal position of both the Philippines and China.

The top diplomat likewise denied "setting aside" or ignoring the 2016 arbitral ruling was needed in order for joint development between the two countries to move forward.

"China has never made setting aside the arbitral award a prerequisite to anything but on the contrary, China agrees with the Philippines to disagree on their respective claims," Locsin tweeted.

Watch @iamkarendavila 's morning show today; I read everything he told President Xi. China has never made setting aside the arbitral award a prerequisite to anything but on the contrary that China agrees with the Philippines to disagree on their respective claims. https://t.co/hrhY362wUy — Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) September 11, 2019

Locsin was responding to a reporter's question seeking clarification on President Rodrigo Duterte's latest remark claiming Manila and Beijing were "ignoring" the 2016 arbitral ruling on the West Philippine Sea in order to push through with joint oil and gas exploration there.

"Kasi 'yang (Because that) – the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), is part of the arbitral ruling which we will ignore to come up with an economic activity," Duterte said on Tuesday, September 10, in an interview with reporters.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel on Wednesday, Locsin added the Hague ruling would be "unnecessary" in joint oil and gas exploration. He said: "The key element is the terms of reference really just fleshes out the memorandum...which is very clear: no legal position of either side is compromised when you enter into this agreement."

Outside the joint oil and gas exploration with China, Locsin likewise said the 2016 Hague ruling won in favor of the Philippines cannot be set aside. 

"The fact is, we won it. What the arbitral award did is that it put the award beyond the reach of compromise.... It's final and binding in international [law]. If you want to abandon it, you can abandon it but then you take the consequences."

Scope of memorandum of understanding (MOU): Meanwhile, Locsin said the MOU on joint development in the maritime area was limited to "disputed" areas only, not areas considered by both Manila and Beijing to be "well within" Philippine territory.

"When it comes to applying the MOU on non-dispted areas, the DOJ under Secretary Menardo Guevarra...said no. If you want to go there then, fine, the foreign country goes in exactly as its supposed to be – a foreign country without any rights whatsoever in our territory," Locsin said.

"I don't care if you're France, Germany, China or what – our terms, our law, our sovereignty, our flag. That's the way it goes," he added.

Chinese FM Wang Yi's & my MOU on oil & gas exploration & development applies only in disputed areas—not in areas everyone including China admits belongs to PH. SOJ Guevara said MOU—with its mutual reservations on sovereignty—does not apply. All countries must submit to PH law. https://t.co/hrhY362wUy — Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) September 11, 2019

Asked which areas would be included in joint development under the MOU, Locsin said the Philippines and China have yet to agree on specific areas.

During Duterte's official visit to China in August, groups were formed to implement a memorandum of understanding on the venture. The groups are expected to meet in order to come up with a framework for "cooperation agreements," due in November this year.

Meanwhile, cooperation agreements will also have to thresh out the 60-40 sharing scheme Duterte wants and is mandated by Presidential Decree No. 87, which states that Filipinos must get the maximum benefit of exploration over foreign agents. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs, the overseas Filipino workers, and elections. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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