Cayetano: PH, China to set aside territorial claims during joint exploration

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(File photo)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 15) — The nation's top diplomat said that both the Philippines and China should set aside their territorial claims during the conduct of the proposed joint exploration of the South China Sea.

"All parties have to set aside for the meantime their claims on territory and sovereign rights to have joint exploration," Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in an ambush interview Wednesday.

Cayetano said that the joint exploration of contested territories in the South China Sea would not push through if both nations would continue to fight over it, likening the agreement to a ceasefire between warring parties.

"Let's stop fighting, let's start drilling," Cayetano said.

The foreign affairs chief added that he is positive that China, having first suggested the joint exploration, would be willing to accept these terms.

"China has been consistent in its stand regarding joint development exploration, and there are other countries around the world who has entered into this. This is accepted in international law," Cayetano said.

Back in March, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque pointed out two areas for a possible joint exploration with China — Service Contracts (SC) 57 and Service Contract 72.

Roque added that this does not mean that the Philippines will accept China's claim of sovereignty over the region. 

READ: PH eyeing 'joint exploration' in 2 S. China Sea areas – Palace

Critics have disputed this suggestion, as SC 57 does not fall under the disputed territory between the Philippines and China, as it lies outside the latter's nine-dash line claim.

On the other hand, SC 72 refers to the agreement on the Reed Bank off Palawan in 2010.