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Beijing set to team up with Manila

By Li Xiaokun | China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-27 06:49

South China Sea exploration will be conducted in joint operations

Joint exploration in the South China Sea will help the Philippines solve urgent problems and help Beijing set a good example in resolving maritime disputes in the South China Sea, observers said.

The comments came after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said this week that Manila and Beijing are working on a joint oil exploration deal which involves gas and oil.

Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Alan Peter Cayetano, the Philippine secretary of foreign affairs, vowed on Tuesday to seek an appropriate approach to jointly explore the South China Sea in the near future.

Cayetano said at a joint news conference after meeting with Wang that to develop bilateral ties, Beijing and Manila have to seek joint exploration of natural resources to benefit the people of both nations.

He noted that leaders from the two countries decided on the joint exploration in the South China Sea in 1986, but breakthroughs have yet to be achieved after discussions lasting 31 years.

Cayetano said he believed that the two countries, led by Duterte and President Xi Jinping, have the wisdom to work jointly on exploration.

Wang said where there are overlaps of maritime rights and interests, if one party goes for unilateral development the other party will take similar actions, possibly complicating the situation.

It could lead to tensions, he said, and result in nobody being able to develop the resources.

Bilateral ties have developed significantly, Wang said, and it is necessary that the two countries make decisions soon to benefit both.

Xu Liping, a researcher of Southeast Asian studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said due to limited funds and technology, Manila had hired European companies to explore resources in the South China Sea, and the companies took most of the profits.

"Now the contract is to expire, so it is a realistic decision for Manila to carry out joint exploration."

For China, joint exploration will lay a solid foundation of mutual political confidence with the Philippines, he said.

Zhong Feiteng, another expert at the academy, said joint exploration will greatly help the Philippines, as oil imports have long been troubling for the country.

And for China, the case will set a promising example for future efforts to settle the South China Sea dispute.

Wang also met Duterte during the visit. Duterte said that "the Philippines attaches great importance to China's status and influence in the world and is willing to build stronger relations with China".

"Facts speak louder. For neighbors, dialogue is better than confrontation; cooperation is better than friction. History will show that we have made a right choice," Wang said.

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