Will PH give up control of seas in 60-40 joint exploration deal with China? Expert asks

MANILA – Will the government “give up control and supervision of the activity” as part of the “60-40” sharing scheme for joint exploration in the South China Sea?

This was the question of a maritime law expert on Monday, days after President Rodrigo Duterte had said he was okay with a 60-40 sharing scheme in a proposed joint oil exploration with China.

Jay Batongbacal, director of the University of the Philippines’ Institute for Maritime Studies and Law of the Sea, said the sharing scheme was not the issue but whether the Philippines would give up control and supervision of the activity.

“The 60-40 share is the minimum allowed by law, so that proportion is not the problem. It’s whether PH will give up control and supervision of the activity, and/or implicitly recognize legally that China (has) rights has over the resource,” Batongbacal said in a text message.

Batongbacal believes a code of conduct for the claimant states in the South China Sea would not be adopted soon.

“[China] is pushing hard diplomatically, but at the same asserting itself on the ground, which I think is counter-productive,” he said.

Duterte is set to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping later this month. He promised to raise the Philippines arbitral win against Beijing’s sweeping claims over the South China Sea.

Beijing claims large parts of the South China Sea through which roughly $3.4 trillion in shipping passes each year. Nations including Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam contest the territorial claims.

But the bitter maritime dispute between Manila and Beijing has eased under Duterte, who has sought improved economic ties with Asia’s largest economy.

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