Duterte offers Beijing '60-40' deal in S. China Sea joint exploration

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President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 28) — President Rodrigo Duterte offered a sharing deal with China on joint exploration in the South China Sea.

In a speech in Davao City on Thursday, Duterte said he suggested the deal instead of going to war with the Eastern giant.

"Precisely I said, with the issue of the China Sea, leave it at that, it's geopolitics. Anyway, China has offered joint exploration and joint operation. And I said, maybe, we give you a better deal, 60-40," he said, recalling his conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping on the on the sidelines of Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan, China on April 11.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano at the time said the two leaders' meeting signified a "go-signal" to come up with a framework on the joint exploration.

China and the Philippines earlier agreed to joint oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea, even if the ongoing maritime dispute between them has yet to be resolved. The Palace said two areas in the South China Sea have already been eyed for the joint venture.

The Philippines has developed warmer ties with China under Duterte's term, in attempts to avoid armed conflict over the sea row.

"You cannot go against anybody. You cannot fight there. But President Xi is a friend. We'll share with you," Duterte added.

Although the government has proposed joint exploration with China, the Palace in March said there will be no co-ownership since the Philippines will "definitely not" recognize China's claimed sovereignty.

China refuses to recognize a 2016 international arbitral ruling recognizing the Philippines' rights over contested areas in the South China Sea.