FAIRLY POSITIVE. Philippines Ambassador to China Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana joins the virtual Palace press briefing on Thursday (Oct. 22, 2020). He said the Chinese government had a “fairly positive” reaction to Manila’s decision to restart oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea. (Screenshot)
MANILA – The Chinese government had a “fairly positive” reaction to Manila’s decision to restart oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea, Philippines Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana said Thursday.
“The Foreign Ministry spokesman of China gave a fairly positive reaction. They said that they look forward to the cooperation between the two sides in line with the MOU (memorandum of agreement) of 2018,” he said in a Palace briefing.
Sta. Romana said both sides are expected to hold more discussion on the subject.
“We have to let the process proceed and see what will happen. But so far, the prospects are good,” he said.
The Philippine government recently lifted the moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea to strengthen the country’s energy security.
The resumption of petroleum activities covers the areas within Service Contract Nos. 59, 72, and 75 in the West Philippine Sea, which were suspended on the ground of force majeure due to the existing South China Sea dispute.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi earlier assured that the lifting of the ban is “in good faith and with full regard” of the ongoing negotiations between the Philippines and China, and Forum Ltd. and the China National Offshore Corp. (CNOOC).
In the Palace briefing, Sta. Romana noted that talks are ongoing between the two governments to determine when the negotiations can resume safely amid the pandemic.
“It’s been a year, almost a year since the first intergovernmental committee that discussed the oil and gas cooperation met and there was a scheduled meeting or a plan to have a meeting in the first quarter of this year, it got affected by the pandemic and the committee has not been able to meet,” he said. “The only obstacle I think right now is really time and place and pandemic; when the conditions can move forward. We hope that the necessary meetings can happen soon but there is no specific time period and there are diplomatic consultations going on.” (PNA)