Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte said China offered him joint oil and gas exploration if Manila sets aside the international arbitration ruling against Beijing, according to a local media report on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters late Tuesday, Duterte quoted his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping as telling him: “Set aside your [Philippines’] claim. Then allow everybody connected with the Chinese companies."
The duo discussed disputes in the South China Sea last month during Duterte's official visit to Beijing.
Manila had won arbitration in 2016 after an international court rejected China’s sweeping claims in the area.
“President Rodrigo Duterte is ready to set aside the 2016 arbitral ruling on the West Philippine Sea [South China Sea] to make way for the joint oil and gas exploration with Beijing,” the Manila Times reported.
Duterte said the Chinese president promised to give the Philippines 60% of the revenues from the proposed joint exploration if it agrees to ignore the ruling.
“That is the promise of Xi Jinping,” the Philippines’ president was quoted as saying by the newspaper.
The Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea was included in a 2016 ruling of The Hague-based arbitration court.
“Because that exclusive economic zone is part of the arbitral ruling which we will ignore to come up with an economic activity,” he added.
The Philippines and China signed the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1982, and in 1994, respectively which say that the EEZ is the 200-nautical mile sea zone from the coastline where a country has exclusive rights to explore and use natural resources.
The Philippines had made 15 submissions to the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the South China Sea in October 2015.
The tribunal decided on seven of the submissions and ruled in favor of the Philippines in July 2016, saying China’s "historical maritime rights" over contested areas in the West Philippine Sea/South China Sea have "no basis in international law". But Beijing refused to accept the ruling.
By Riyaz ul Khaliq