01/02/2017, 18.56
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Manila vetting joint exploration with Beijing in the South China Sea

Divided over Asia-Pacific seas, the Philippines and China could launch a strategic partnership. Manila is looking for new energy sources and foreign investment to boost the Filipino economy. The goal is to normalise" relations with Beijing after years of tension.

Manila (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Philippines is "seriously studying" the possibility of conducting joint exploration of natural resources with China in the South China Sea.

Divided over who controls a large sector of the Asia-Pacific region, the two nations could launch a strategic partnership. This would confirm Manila’s progressive tilting away from the United States.

According to the Philippines Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana, the Philippines Departments of Energy and Foreign Affairs have already been tasked with studying joint exploration projects.

This comes at a time when the Filipino government expects energy supplies from its Malampaya gas fields to start to decline in ten years time.

Once ready to do battle at the United Nations to defend its maritime claims, the Philippines under President Duterte appears ready to settle disputes through Beijing’s preferred bilateral approach in order to attract Chinese investment.

According to its incoming ambassador to China, Manila wants “joint explorations” in the South China Sea and normalised relations with Beijing, as indicated by Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte who made an official visit to Beijing last October.

During that visit, aimed at boosting the Philippines economy, the president stressed the foreign policy shift he had signalled when he took office. In fact, Duterte said that he wanted looser ties with Washington and improved dialogue with Beijing.

“The Chinese viewed the Philippines as a geopolitical pawn or Trojan horse of the US. Now they look at us as a friendly neighbour,” Ambassador Sta. Romana said.

What is more, China does not meddle in the internal affairs of other countries, and has not criticised President Duterte’s war on drug dealers and drug addicts, as Washington has.

The war itself has come with scores of summary executions and extrajudicial killings, which have also been condemned by the Filipino bishops' conference.

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