China, Philippines chart course for future relations in joint statement


"The two sides agree that the milestone visit of President Xi Jinping has contributed to the advancement of friendship and cooperation between China and the Philippines", a joint statement of the leaders read.

To Professor Jay Batongbacal, who heads the University of the Philippines Institute for Maritime Affairs, if the title on the Chinese draft was indeed the same as the one on the signed agreement, it meant the document "doesn't amount to a contract" and is "more like a record of what they talked about and agreed on in principle".

The deals include a memorandum of understanding to jointly explore for energy resources, alongside agreements on basic education, agricultural cooperatives and infrastructure projects, Philippines government spokesman JV Arcena told CNN.

The oil and gas deal ends a two-year feud since an global tribunal ruled in Manila's favour...

He said the committee would be in charge of determining how to proceed with the joint oil and gas exploration and would also determine what areas of the South China Sea or West Philippine Sea would be the subject of the exploration. The Philippines is willing to expand cooperation with China in national security and the safeguarding of regional peace and stability, Duterte noted. "It's now in their hands".

He said: "I do think China has made some gains within the region, but pulling Manila away from Washington is very, very hard because of cultural issues, values and the strong ties that both countries have had for more than 70 years".

"If after Xi Jinping's visit, there's still no big move by China to invest in the Philippines, if China's militarisation and reclamation will just continue unabated, you're going to have a situation where Duterte will come under extreme pressure", he said. Xi responded with a friendly threat of war if he proceeded to do so.

Locsin said he had written the MOU himself without consulting a draft contract earlier leaked by Trillanes.

Duterte, meanwhile, said China's official visit is an opportunity to boost friendship and cooperation between the two countries.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, who was with the Senate contingent, said Xi had cited his discussions with President Duterte about the territorial claims in the South China Sea. The costs of the deals with Beijing are "really reasonable or better than the others", he said.

Meantime online, many Filipinos changed their profile pictures to images of the cartoon bear Winnie the Pooh, a symbol censored on Chinese social media for its supposed likeness to the Chinese leader.

For the Philippines, teaming up with China to tap into the vast oil reserves in the South China Sea can kill two birds with one stone: avoiding any direct confrontation with Beijing and helping meet its own energy needs.

More Chinese companies are also looking to set up production bases in the Philippines as a way to elude trade tariffs imposed by the U.S., Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said last week at meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Singapore. On Monday, two US B-52 bombers flew near contested islands in the waters, according to US Pacific Air Forces.

Aside from the issue on the South China Sea, the meeting with Xi also concentrated on trade and commerce between the Philippines and China.

US Vice President Mike Pence at the ASEAN Summit in November 2018.

Philippine opposition senators have demanded President Rodrigo Duterte reveal details of joint energy exploration plans with China, warning such a deal risked affirming Chinese territorial claims that are not recognized under worldwide law. Divisions rapidly developed over language in the joint communique condemning "unfair trade practices", which Chinese officials felt was directed at Beijing.