As if right on cue, China has expressed its interest to ‘work together’ with the Philippines in developing energy projects in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zhao Lijian’s statement came following the Duterte administration’s decision to lift the six-year-old moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the WPS, paving the way for the resumption of three projects, including a joint venture with China.
“China and the Philippines have reached consensus on the joint development of oil and gas resources in the South China Sea and have established a cooperation mechanism for relevant consultations,” said Zhao.
“I hope and believe that the two sides will meet each other halfway, promote joint development, and continue to make positive progress,” he added.
Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi said that he is confident that Philippine companies will not be obstructed with projects with China since “it follows that we can do our activity freely as the country that has economic rights” over the WPS.
China, however, has since ignored and neglected international laws that recognize that the WPS is rightfully owned by the Philippines.
Beijing has been aggressively and illegally claiming territories and islands in the WPS that are supposedly within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
China’s illegal island-building and reef reclamation in the WPS has also significantly resulted in the destruction of marine life in the area, affecting the livelihood of Filipino fishermen.
Among the projects involved in the gas and oil exploration in the WPS is that of Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corporation, who also owns DITO Telecommunity, the country’s third telco player marred with controversy over its 40-percent Chinese ownership.