• Melo Acuna

Talks between China and the Philippines to resume as COVID-19 restrictions ease

COVID-19 stalled discussions on the joint exploration between China and the Philippines

MANILA – The scheduled inter-governmental committee meeting that would discuss the oil and gas cooperation during the first quarter was stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking from the Philippine Embassy in Beijing, Ambassador Jose Santiago “Chito” L. Sta. Romana said it was almost a year ago when representatives from the Philippines and China met and began consultations on the Memorandum of Understanding regarding the joint exploration of resources within the South China Sea also known as West Philippine Sea.

During this mid-day Press Briefing hosted by Presidential Spokesperson Secretary Harry Roque, Ambassador Sta. Romana said the diplomatic discussions will resume as soon as health safety conditions improve.

“You see, the problem is still where to meet, who will go and how the travel would be possible unless it’s done virtually,” he said.

Ambassador Sta. Romana said virtual meetings have limitations due to sensitive issues which may be discussed.

“There are two levels of discussions, the inter-governmental meetings and the inter-entrepreneurial meeting, so the two, the companies involved can meet if they have the capability to do so and from what I understand offhand it’s just that meetings have been going on despite the pandemic,” he added.

He explained the only obstacle is the time and place and the pandemic and as conditions improve, the better it would be for both parties. However, there are on-going diplomatic consultations.

Asked of the Chinese government’s reaction to Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi’s announcement lifting the moratorium on the exploration of resources within the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ), Ambassador Sta. Romana said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Zhao Lijian “gave a fairly positive reaction.”

The spokesperson was quoted saying they look forward to the cooperation between the two sides in line with the Memorandum of Understanding of 2018.

“So, I think there would be more discussions on this but that’s what I know,” he concluded. (Melo M. Acuña)

Philippine Ambassador to China Jose Santiago "Chito" L. Sta. Romana. (File Photo/Melo M. Acuna)

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