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Aquino warns against 60-40 joint exploration in West PH Sea

MANILA, Philippines – Former president Benigno Aquino III opposes the proposed 60-40 sharing of natural resources between the Philippines and China in the joint exploration of the West Philippine Sea.

Aquino said the area is within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and the country has no obligation to share its resources with the Asian giant.

He again shared a "joke," China's supposed motto, which was often used during his term. What started as a joke, he said, seems to be coming true under the Duterte administration.

"Exclusive economic zone ang pinag-uusapan eh. Parang wala tayong obligasyon na makihati sa kanila. Noong panahon ko may joke eh, sabi raw nila: 'What is ours is ours. What is yours, we share.' So ngayon, parang nagiging totoo na ata ito," Aquino said.

(We're talking about our exclusive economic zone. We have no obligation to share it with them. During my time, there was a joke. China said: "What is ours is ours. What is yours, we share." So now, it seems this is coming true.) 

"Balikan lang natin fundamental dito: exclusive ito sa atin, meron ba tayong obligasyon na bahagian sila?" he added. (Let's just go back to the fundamental issue here: This is exclusively for us. Do we have an obligation to share it with China?)

For Aquino, who brought China to court over the disputed waters, the Asian neighbor cannot be trusted. He said the proposed 60-40 scheme favoring the Philippines could end up being disadvantageous to the country.

"Ang bargaining position, 60-40. Baka naman sa dulo nito ay baliktad, baka sila 60, baka 70... Sa halip na wala silang karapatan, biglang ngayon eh baka naman kailangang amuhin sila sa dulo. At para mapaamo, kailangang mas malaki ang parte nila," the former president said.

(The bargaining position is 60-40. But in the end, it might become the opposite. They might get 60% of the share or 70%. Instead of them having no rights, all of a sudden we might have to woo them in the end. And to woo them, we have to give them a larger share.)

"Bantayan natin na sana 'di maging gano'n ang mangyari (Let's be vigilant that it won't happen)," he added.

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano previously said China is "open" to the joint exploration proposal, adding that the draft framework might be out by September.

President Rodrigo Duterte himself made the proposal in a speech last April.

"Precisely I said, with the issue of the [South] China Sea, leave it at that, it's geopolitics. Anyway, China has offered joint exploration and joint operation. And I said, maybe, we give you a better deal, 60-40," Duterte said.

Malacañang earlier spoke of two areas in the West Philippine Sea being considered for the joint activity – Service Contracts 57 (Calamian) and 72 (Recto Bank).

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio warned, however, that the 1987 Constitution prohibits joint development within the Philippines' EEZ.

Maritime expert Jay Batongbacal also said allowing joint development in such an area could be seen as "inconsistent" with the arbitral ruling won by the Philippines in 2016.

In its ruling, the Permanent Court of Arbitration said "there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources, in excess of the rights provided for by the Convention, within the sea areas falling within the '9-dash line.'" (READ: FAST FACTS: South China Sea dispute)

Despite the ruling, China continues its military buildup in the West Philippine Sea and harassment of Filipino fishermen in areas declared by the decision as common fishing grounds. – Rappler.com

Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com

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