The Philippines is in talks with a Chinese firm for joint exploration and extraction of oil and gas in the disputed South China Sea, Harry Roque, spokesman of President Rodrigo Duterte, said on Thursday.
Roque did not identify the companies involved, but said the talks were "moving forward". "We might enter into an agreement with a Chinese-owned corporation, not the Chinese state itself," he told the ABS-CBN news channel, adding that such an agreement between private companies is allowed under Philippine law.
China claims most of the South China Sea, a key route in global trade and resource-rich territory. Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines also lay claim over the area.
Last month, the Philippines and China agreed to set up a special panel to work out how they can jointly explore oil and gas in part of the South China Sea.
On Wednesday, Dutarte said an arrangement for co-ownership of the energy rich region was preferable to the "massacre" of Filipino troops in a war with China. That rose eyebrows within and outside the Southeast Asian country. Roque on Thursday sought to explain President Duterte's use of the word "co-ownership" when describing joint exploration with China in the West Philippine Sea.
"What he meant was, that's exactly the kind of relationship we will have in a joint exploration and exploitation," said Roque during a press conference "We are not entering into a sovereign agreement for exploration. It will be an agreement, if we do, between two corporate entities," Roque said.
-- (UNI) -- C-1-1-DL0464-1270581.Xml