Duterte Wants Oil Sharing Agreement with China in the Disputed South China Sea
Citing Manila's inability to put up a fight with China, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he would instead pursue economic opportunities with Beijing including sharing any oil resources with the Asian giant in areas in the South China Sea where their claims overlap.
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Duterte told reporters on Monday that if oil deposits are found in the hotly contested Scarborough Shoal, one of the many disputed islands, reefs, and shoals in the South China Sea between the two countries, then he would be willing to jointly develop and split the resources with China.
"Let's just develop...let's just split those," the president said in an interview with the media.
Duterte admitted that Manila could not just wrest back control of the resource-rich Scarborough Shoal from Beijing despite a Hague-based tribunal ruling, saying the Philippine military was no match to Beijing's army.
"They'd be just wiped out in just one minute. There'll be a disaster," he said.
China took control of the disputed Scarborough Shoal after it seized it from the Philippines following a two-week standoff last 2012.
In 2013, Manila filed a territorial case against Beijing before the International Permanent Court of Arbitration for unlawfully preventing Filipino fishermen from fishing in the areas surrounding the Scarborough Shoal.
Last July 12, the arbitral court ruled that Filipino fishermen as well as those from China and Vietnam have traditional fishing rights at the shoal and that Beijing has no legal right to prevent the Filipinos from fishing in the zone.
It also ruled that Beijing has no legal basis to its massive claims in the South China Sea region and that it violated the provisions of international law and the Philippines' rights to explore its resources in its exclusive economic zone.
Not ready for war
Last week, Duterte was quoted as saying that it was setting aside its dispute with Beijing on the South China Sea and would instead focus on improving other aspects of its relations with China such as trade, commerce, and political affairs.
In an interview with Channel News Asia, he said Manila was willing to drop its ongoing conflict with Beijing over the South China Sea for the meantime, admitting that the Philippines was not ready to go to war with China.
The chief executive said that the only approach it would take to resolve its maritime dispute with China was through bilateral talks and other peaceful avenues.
"What will you do? Engage yourself in a war with China where there will be no winners? Nobody wants a war," he said.