MANILA, Philippines – "Forces" in Philippine government, not President Rodrigo Duterte, pushed for an oil and gas deal with China in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), said Foreign Secretary Teodoro "Teddyboy" Locsin on Thursday, November 22.
Locsin made this statement after he was asked on CNN Philippines' The Source about his previous tweet on oil and gas deals. Locsin had tweeted on November 8, "The Department of Foreign Affairs denies flatly that it has any knowledge or participation whatsoever in specific oil and gas deals. Zero."
Locsin confirmed: "Yeah. There wasn't any deal. In fact, even in, well, frankly, it wasn't being pushed by the President, but there were forces there saying we should come to an understanding, so there."
"Who were the forces there?" asked CNN Philippines anchor Pinky Webb.
"Well, within the government. I cannot say more. But they have to live with this," Locsin said, holding up a copy of the oil and gas deal signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping's recent state visit to the Philippines.
Locsin: Duterte 'didn't tell me anything'
Duterte has pushed for joint exploration in his speeches, most recently on November 10, but the context of Webb's question was Locsin's statement denying knowledge of "specific oil and gas deals."
The deal signed on Tuesday, November 21, is a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Philippines and China on oil and gas development in the West Philippine Sea.
"Sir, so I wanna clarify that the President is not pushing this?" Webb asked Locsin on Thursday.
"He didn't push it. He didn't tell me anything," said Locsin, who took his oath as foreign secretary on October 17. (READ: FAST FACTS: Who is DFA chief Teddyboy Locsin?)
The MOU during Xi's visit creates a body to study the possible joint exploration of the West Philippine Sea. This body is set to be chaired by the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
The Philippines and China set a 12-month deadline "to agree on the cooperation arrangements."
Opposition senators Antonio Trillanes IV and Francis Pangilinan earlier warned about a "Chinese draft" of a joint exploration framework, but Locsin said it was himself who wrote the MOU signed during Xi's visit. – Rappler.com
Paterno R. Esmaquel II is a senior reporter leading Rappler’s coverage of religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at email@example.com.