Duterte lifts moratorium on oil exploration in West Philippine Sea

Marje Pelayo   •   October 16, 2020   •   621

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has lifted the moratorium or the suspension of oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea upon the recommendation of the Department of Energy (DOE).

Following the lifting of moratorium, the DOE will resume issuance of work notice to authorized service contractors within the area covered by the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

According to Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, the resumption of oil exploration in the area will provide the Philippines additional source of oil fuel to ensure energy security in the country.

One expected benefit is the increase in natural gas reserve of the Malampaya Power Plant.

“It gives hope to the Filipino people that eventually, we will have that energy independence and energy security and a more affordable energy,” Cusi said.

The agency hopes such development will generate more jobs during the pandemic especially to residents near the disputed territories through the entry of foreign investors.

The DOE expressed confidence that the said decision will not affect the relationship between the Philippines in China despite the signed memorandum of understanding for oil and gas development cooperation in the disputed territories.

“It’s done in good faith because alam naman natin na meron tayong MOU na pinirmahan [because we know that we have an existing MOU signed] together with China saying it was in good faith,” Cusi explained.

“Because it does not affect that MOU, it does not stop the joint development activities that we might arrive at with China,” he added.

The oil exploration in West Philippines Sea was halted in 2015 due to the increasing tension among claimant states in the disputed territories. MNP (with reports from Joan Nano)

Duterte: I asked Chinese Pres. Xi Jinping for help on COVID-19 vaccines but no talks on WPS

Robie de Guzman   •   May 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday disclosed that he asked help from his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping in obtaining COVID-19 vaccines but insisted that they did not discuss issues on the West Philippine Sea.

During his Talk to the People public address on Monday night, Duterte recalled how he called Xi when the Philippines had yet to get any supply of COVID-19 vaccines.

“Let me just also say na itong history na… for public consumption na ito. Tumawag ako kay President Xi Jinping, sinabi ko kasi noong kasagsagan ng walang dumating talaga, walang makapkap si Secretary (Carlito) Galvez (Jr.), tumawag ako, sabi ko, ‘Mr. President (Xi), I would like to ask for your help until now Philippines is at a loss on how to get vaccines,’” he said.

“Sabi niya, ‘it’s okay we will help you.’ Ganoon lang. Hindi naman sinabi na kalimutan mo yung Scarborough Shoal, bigyan kita… Sinabi niya lang as simple as that,” he added.

The Philippines first received 600,000 doses of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines that were donated by the Chinese government on February 28. The national government used this supply to roll out its vaccination program on March 1.

In total, the Philippines has received 1 million donated Sinovac vaccine doses from China, including the 400,000 doses that were delivered in March.

Duterte stood by his earlier statement that the Philippines owes a debt of gratitude to China for all its help but emphasized that there would be no compromise on the West Philippine Sea issue.

“It’s never, never wrong to say that I owe you a debt of gratitude. Totoo eh, binigyan tayo, tinanggap natin, ginamit natin,” he said.

“But it does not mean na tanggapin ko ang bakuna tapos sabihin ko kalimutan ko na yung claim diyan sa West Philippine sea, okay na yun dahil sa bakuna… It was never like that, the world does not operate like that,” he added.

He said there would be no compromise on the issue and that China knows it.

“Maski bahain tayo dito ng vaccine, gagamitin ko pa rin pero sabihin ko ‘hindi ito kabayaran’. Iba ito. This is a Philippine national interest, this is not a health issue that nagpasalamat ako,” he said.

Correction:
An earlier version of this article misstated that “they did discuss issues.” 

Why did Duterte tap out of challenge to debate with Carpio?

Robie de Guzman   •   May 10, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday said he is not afraid of facing retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio in a debate on issues surrounding the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte last week dared Carpio to square off on the loss of a Philippine territory during the Aquino administration, but later tapped out and instead delegated the task to his spokesperson, lawyer Harry Roque.

“What was in my mind when I challenged Carpio into a debate? Ang problema lang kasi dito nakalimutan ko na si Carpio hindi ang presidente – ako,” Duterte said in his weekly Talk to the People on Monday night.

Duterte said he had to back out of the challenge because anything he might say there could be construed as a “policy statement.”

“I might bind future actions of government pagdating dito sa West Philippine Sea,” he said.

“Pero dodoon ako sa kahon, it’s not because I am afraid of debates,” he added, saying that he had faced many debates with political rivals for the presidency in 2016.

“Hindi ako takot sa’yo, ang problema, hindi ko nga alam na hindi ka president,” he further said, addressing Carpio.

Duterte has blamed the previous administration over the loss of the Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea following a standoff in 2012.

Former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier said that China “deceitfully breached” its agreement with the Philippines to withdraw the ships of both sides to end the standoff.

The Philippines then pursued an arbitral case against China in 2014. The Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in 2016 in favor of the Philippines and nullified China’s vast claims in the South China Sea, including parts of the West Philippine Sea.

Duterte said he tried pursuing the arbitral ruling but nothing happened.

China has been ignoring the diplomatic protest that the Philippine government has repeatedly filed over the incursion of Chinese vessels in the contested waters.

Carpio reacts to Duterte backing out from debate on West PH issue

Aileen Cerrudo   •   May 7, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — After President Rodrigo Duterte backed out from the debate on the West Philippine Sea issue, Retired Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said it would be “pointless to debate about Scarborough Shoal and Mischief Reef.”

Duterte has designated Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. to face Caprio in the debate. During a press conference on Friday (Mary 7), Roque has laid out topics to be discussed during the debate after announcing the President will no longer participate in the challenge.

“I accepted the President’s challenge without any conditions. Now the President has backed out of his personal challenge to me without giving a definite reason. Instead, he has designated his spokesperson Harry Roque to debate with me on the issue of what administration lost Scarborough Shoal and Mischief Reef to China,” Carpio said in a statement.

Carpio said there is no factual dispute that China seized Scarborough Shoal from the Philippines during the Aquino Administration. There is also no factual dispute that China seized Mischief Reef from the Philippines during the Ramos Administration.

“Hence, it is pointless to debate about Scarborough Shoal and Mischief Reef. I will not engage in a useless exercise that will only detract the public’s interest on the vital outstanding issues on the West Philippines Sea, like the President’s continuing false claim that ‘China is in possession of the West Philippine Sea,’” he said.

“I am ready to debate with the President or with anyone he may designate on the factual accuracy and adverse legal implications to the Philippines of the President’s repeated claim that ‘China is in possession of the West Philippine Sea,’” he added. AAC (with reports from Nel Maribojoc)

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