China, Philippines seek to resume joint oil, gas exploration
Manila, Apr 4 (EFE).- The Philippines said Tuesday it would hold a meeting with Chinese representatives in Beijing to resume talks on joint exploration of gas and oil in the South China Sea, despite the territorial conflict they maintain in those waters.
“The Philippines and China will meet for preparatory talks in Beijing sometime in May,” the Philippine Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The Philippine Foreign Ministry statement follows the announcement of the intended resumption of these talks that the presidents of China and the Philippines, Xi Jinping and Ferdinand Marcos Jr, respectively, communicated after meeting in Beijing in January, without specifying a date.
The negotiations to establish joint explorations in the South China Sea, waters very rich in natural resources through which about a third of the volume of global trade passes, were suspended in June, when then-Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte claimed unconstitutional incompatibility.
Explorations there are controversial for the Philippines due to its territorial conflict with China over the sovereignty of several islands and atolls in those waters, which has worsened in recent months due to frequent incursions by Chinese ships into Philippine territorial waters.
It is also a particularly delicate moment in relations between China and the Philippines, after Manila announced Monday four new military bases to which the United States Army will have access in the country, after the expansion of a Defense Agreement between Washington and Manila.
Of the four bases, three are located in the northernmost part of the Philippines, near Taiwan, and another is closer to the disputed islands and reefs between Beijing and Manila in the South Sea, which China considers a provocation that “threats regional peace.”
The promotion of negotiations to explore gas and oil in the South Sea with China, the Philippines’ largest trading partner, shows the ambiguous relationship Marcos Jr. maintains with Beijing. The leader has tried to keep economic ties while curbing its expansionist ambitions by relying on its military alliance with the US. EFE