Outgoing Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr revealed on Thursday that President Rodrigo Duterte had ordered the end of the Philippines’ joint oil exploration talks with China.
The Philippines abandoned the pact, according to Locsin, because of constitutional restrictions and concerns about the nation’s sovereignty, according to JP Soriano’s report on “24 Oras.”
“The President has spoken. I carried out his instructions to the letter. Oil and gas discussions are terminated completely. Nothing is spending. Everything is over,” Locsin said at the 124th anniversary of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
“Three years on, and we have not achieved our objective — developing oil and gas resources so critical for the Philippines but not at the price of sovereignty. Not even a particle of it,” he added.
The West Philippine Sea (WPS), a component of the nation’s exclusive economic zone, is thought to have rich oil and gas reserves.
The Philippines had intended to conduct research and development in the disputed waters, but this never happened due to China’s extensive claim over the South China Sea.
“I tried for three years to come to an agreement, to facilitate exploration for, and exploitation of oil and gas in the WPS. We got as far as it is Constitutionally possible to go,” Locsin said.
Duterte terminates Philippines-China joint oil, gas exploration talks
“One step forward from where we stood, on the edge of the abyss, is a drop into Constitutional crisis. That explains the sudden pullback of my part which unraveled three years of sincere hardwork on the part of Wang Yi and me,” he added.
In a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed in November 2018, the governments of China and the Philippines agreed to set up an intergovernmental joint steering group to explore potential energy cooperation.
Each working group from the two nations will “consist of representatives from enterprises authorized by the two governments,” according to the MOU.
Locsin stated that the responsibility for defending Philippine sovereignty now rests with the administration of incoming President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.
“It remains with the new administration to protect our sovereignty all the way to the while but now I can rest. The irreducible template of what is Constitutionally possible is there in black-and-white. Surrender of any portion of Philippine sovereignty is not an option. Not for love. Not for money,” Locsin said.
“I drew a blood-red line in the WPS. You, here, in the audience met me more than halfway to hold that line. Firing diplomatic protests to intruders in our waters, not missing a single transgression,” he added.