Cayetano: No deadline set in West PH Sea joint explorations

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 30) — Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said there was no deadline for the joint exploration with Beijing in the West Philippine Sea.

In an interview Wednesday, Cayetano said negotiations for the exploration were underway.

"What's going to happen is we're going to focus on the legal framework and then ang tingin ko, mas matagal ang negosasyon sa joint development kasi papasok na diyan ang financial side, pero mas mabilis ang usapan sa joint exploration sapagkat joint exploration, kumbaga sa doctor, is diagnosis. All of us want to know what is there," he said.

[Translation: What's going to happen is we're going to focus on the legal framework and then I think, the negotiations on joint development would take longer because the financial side will come in, but consultations on joint exploration will be faster because, if we were to liken it to a doctor, is a diagnosis.  All of us want to know what is there.]

He added oil reserves in the area was about 50 percent more than that of Malampaya and the government's starting proposition was a 60-40 share with China, in favor of the Philippines.

"(60-40 ) that's our starting proposition... So, they're considering it. But we also have to ask and answer the question to them why 60-40," Cayetano said.

Cayetano earlier said they were eyeing a legal framework for a joint sea exploration with China in the next two to three months.

In an earlier interview, Cayetano said both countries would set aside territorial claims during the joint exploration.

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.

Duterte has worked to repair relations with China that had been been strained by the territorial row in the South China Sea and the arbitration case filed by his predecessor against Beijing's sweeping claims in the disputed area.

China has transformed seven disputed reefs into islands, raising tensions in the area, where the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, and Brunei also have territorial claims.