President Rodrigo Roa Duterte urged the next administration on Monday to honor the Philippines’ commitment to the proposed joint oil exploration with China in the resource-rich West Philippine Sea (WPS) in order to avoid a possible conflict.
Duterte said there are already “so many flashpoints” across the world, citing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s claims in Taiwan, that he did not want the Philippines to become entangled in any conflict.
“‘Yan ang iniiwasan ko noon pa e. Tapos magkagiyera tuloy tayo dito, nandoon sa Ukraine, nandiyan yung Taiwan gusto agawin ulit ng China tapos dito (That is what I am avoiding since before. If we have a war here…there’s one in Ukraine, there’s Taiwan that China wants to get back). So many flashpoints…maraming lugar na may putok (so many places with wars). We do not need it. Di natin kailangan makipag-away diyan (We don’t need to fight with anyone),” he said in a prerecorded Talk to the People.
Duterte said failing to abide by commitments to jointly explore energy resources in the disputed sea would spell trouble for the country.
“Sundin lang ninyo kung ano yung pinag-usapan noon (Just follow what was discussed before). It’s a matter of honor…Consensual talks tapos may (and a) written agreement. Pag iniba ‘yan delikado (If you change it, it’s dangerous),” he added.
He said although the Philippines and China may not be able to have a peaceful resolution to the sea row during his administration, what mattered now is to remain calm amid the crisis.
“Just to remind everybody to stay cool. Chill ka lang (Just chill). It’s not in our generation na maso-solve natin itong problema sa China (that we would solve this problem with China). I don’t know what the future holds but as of this time, relax lang tayo (let’s just relax). That’s my advice para sa lahat. Ika nga, (for all. As they say), do not tempt the gods and look for trouble that we cannot maybe handle. Mahirapan tayo (We will have a difficult time),” he said.
There are presently no agreements reached between the Philippines and China when it comes to joint exploration activities for oil and gas at the diplomatically strained sea.
The two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on joint oil and gas development in the WPS in November 2018.
Philippine and Chinese officials are still in the process of fleshing out possible details of any joint exploration venture.
Impact of Russia-Ukraine war
Meanwhile, Duterte said he is considering calling for a special session of Congress to discuss the recommendations of his economic team to mitigate the impact of the Russia-Ukraine crisis on the Philippine economy.
The National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) said placing the entire country under Alert Level 1 and opening all schools for face-to-face learning will increase domestic economic activity and offset external risks. Doubling the fuel subsidy program for public utility vehicles will also help cushion the impact of spiraling oil prices, the agency said.
Duterte admitted that there may not be enough time to tackle measures to address the economic impact on Philippine recovery since he only had less than three months left until he steps down from office.
Despite having little time left, he said the recommendations of the NEDA are “vital to keep the economy going for a few months.” (PNA)