President Rodrigo Duterte Open to Joint Exploration with China in the South China Sea

President Rodrigo Duterte said he is open to having joint oil exploration with China in the South China Sea, considered as the disputed maritime territories.

However, the president clarified on Monday he is not setting aside the ruling on the maritime case filed by the Philippines.

Instead, he reiterated that he would eventually bring up with Beijing the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidating its claim over large part of the South China Sea.

“Kung gusto ninyo, let’s just develop what’s the oil there, hati-hati nalang tayo. Anuhin ko naman iyang dagat kung walang… What will I do with the Scarborough Shoal? Swim there everyday? For what? To send my soldiers there to die? Nakalutang lahat? Susmaryosep. I will just have to start with the domestic problems,” Duterte said in his speech.

Duterte said it was not yet the right time to raise the possibility of joint energy exploration between the Manila and Beijing.

Duterte said he already informed Chinese President Xi Jinping that he will raise the issue of the tribunal ruling again.

“‘There will be a day,’ sinabi ko kay Xi Jinping, ‘that we will have to take this up, but not now because I am here as a visitor.’ And ‘yung sabi I cannot talk about it kasi labas na tayo, bisita lang ako dito. But I will bring this up. Alam na niya, pati ang ambassador dito iyong Chinese. I will bring this up, someday, but it will be during my time, that I have this arbitral award, so I have to push it,” he added.

The latest pronouncement of the President comes days after he said on Saturday that he would “set aside” the arbitral ruling even as China has allegedly installed weapons system in the Johnson Reef.

“In the play of politics now, I will set aside the arbitral ruling,” Duterte said during an early morning news conference in Davao City last Saturday.

“I will not impose anything on China. Why? Because the politics here in Southeast Asia is changing. Like us now, I will separate or I will demand that [US forces] go out of my country,” he added.

A US think tank released last week the satellite images of what looks like a weapons system, anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, set up by China within the disputed territory, which is claimed by the Philippines.

CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative said that the satellite images appears to be anti-aircraft guns and what are likely to be close-in weapons systems (CIWS) on the artificial island Johnson Reef in the South China.

Earlier this year, the PCA ruled in favor of the Philippines, saying that the claim of Beijing in the South China Sea using the nine-dash line is baseless.