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Salceda urges PBBM to renegotiate terms of WPS joint-development deal with China over; House tax chair suggests ‘audited’ independent exploration, joint venture only after exploration

June 27th, 2022

House Ways and Means Chair Joey Sarte Salceda (Albay, 2nd district) is suggesting to President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr. that the country recalibrate the terms of its joint development efforts with China over West Philippine Sea assets to instead require independent, ‘internationally-observed’ exploration of possible oil and gas reserves first before a joint development agreement is carried out.

Salceda made the comments in response the Duterte government’s recent withdrawal from talks with China over a joint energy project.

“I still think that it is in our best interest to find a live-and-let-live solution with China on utilizing West Philippine Sea resources. As we have seen in Ukraine, military confrontation is a no-winners scenario. And, this is a question of Philippine independent interest, so we should not depend on our Western partners either.”

“Instead, I strongly suggest to PBBM that we renegotiate a way to approximate an inventory of WPS energy assets independently, with international observation and audit. That way, we know the kind of resources we are negotiating about without undermining our sovereignty.”

“This is also consistent with the China approach I have been advocating: let’s know the benefits first, before we decide on what military, economic, diplomatic, or political costs we are willing to incur over the WPS.”

“At the same time, independent exploration before joint development will allow us to make a rational, nationally self-interested decision about what kind of joint development agreement we will undertake,” Salceda suggested.

“China will have to pay up”

At the same time, Salceda said, the Philippine government “must make China understand that if they want us on friendlier terms, especially on resource development, they have to pay up.”

“China is not a major Philippine investor. The island state of Singapore trumps China on that front by several multiples. It is not a major Philippine lender, on the scale of say, Japan. It is our second largest export market, but the United States still beats them there. So, if they want our favor, they have to pay up. Invest more in the country. Send us more tourists. Give us cheaper loans,” Salceda said.

“Otherwise, what it will look like is a military superior country just trying to coerce another neighbor,” Salceda added.

“Right now, our geopolitical best friend is still Japan, which has shown time and again that its interests align with ours. I would explore the possibility of the Philippines going on its own using Japanese capital, technology, and research as leverage in our talks with China over oil in WPS. Besides, it is in Japan’s interest to have a close friend be oil-producing.”

“My point is, we want to be friends with China. We want more trade and more joint efforts with China. But China has to earn our trust and our favor. Or we will turn to other friends. “

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