PRESIDENT Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping have signed a historic deal for the Philippines and China to engage in the joint development of the oil and natural gas resources of the Reed Bank. This deal comes at a most critical time for the Philippines as its only significant domestic fossil fuel resource in Malampaya will run out in 2024.
The Duterte-Xi accord favors the Philippines with 60 percent of the revenues from the project over the 40 percent China has accepted as its share. The deal is widely considered as setting the template for other Asean claimants dealing with China, proving that negotiations work better than intransigence.
Critics accusing Duterte of being “irresponsible” for ”setting aside” the 2016 award from the Permanent Court of Arbitration actually point their thumbs at themselves. Aside from the fact that the oil and gas are critically needed by the Philippines, the PCA and its award enjoy no recognition from the United Nations as stated by a UN spokesman representing Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon.
At a press conference on July 12, 2016, Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said “The United Nations doesn’t have a position on the legal and procedural merits” of the South China Sea arbitration case. This has been underreported by Philippine media through the past three years.
To attempt to delay, scuttle or besmirch the historic achievement of President Duterte and President Xi is nothing but cynical politicking at a moment of energy supply vulnerability for the country. The unfounded criticism also undermines an opportune moment to set the example in Asia for the “Win-Win” approach to achieving solidarity among Asean and China through negotiations and sharing.
Critics of President Duterte’s “setting aside” of the PCA ruling conveniently forget that China is also “setting aside” its sovereignty claim for the sake of the mutually beneficial arrangement. As the late Chinese Premier Deng Xiaoping said to the late President Corazon C. Aquino in her visit to the Chinese leader, “Our next generation will certainly be wiser. They will certainly find a solution acceptable to all.”
Malacañang should not appear defensive in its response to critics of this oil production accord. The deal with China carries beneficial impact for the Philippines’ economic stability and continuity of its growth potential.
The political opposition, the nitpicking media and big business interests are all conspiring to negate the gains of Duterte’s economic push, whether with China or with other partner economies. But amid this man-made chaos, Duterte is just cool and appears to do what he believes is best for the Filipino people.