Duterte: PH must honor Recto Bank exploration deal with China

President Rodrigo Duterte has reiterated that the Philippines must keep its word on the Recto Bank exploration deal with China to avoid conflict.

In a public address Monday night, Duterte revealed he received a reminder from China about the consequences of disregarding the two countries’ agreement. He added this came after news spread that some companies or groups wanted to meddle in the project in the Recto Bank, known internationally as Reed Bank.

Duterte said he will honor the agreement until his term ends on June 30.

“Binulungan ako ng ano na, ‘Huwag ganoon, ‘yung original contracts natin sundin natin,'” he said. “Sundin lang nila, sundin lang ninyo kung ano ‘yung pinag-usapan noon. Sabi ko honor ‘yan eh, it’s a matter of honor. Nag-ano consensual talks tapos may written agreement. ‘Pag iniba ‘yan, delikado.”

[Translation: Someone told me, ‘Don’t do that, let’s follow our original contracts.’ Let us follow what we previously agreed on. I said, it’s part of honoring our word. We had consensual talks and a written agreement. It’ll be dangerous to change it.]

The Philippines earlier offered for oil exploration an area in Recto Bank, considered to be an oil-rich sea feature in the West Philippine Sea that China claims as part of its territory.

The 2016 Arbitral Tribunal’s ruling states that the Reed Bank is part of the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone and continental shelf, where Manila has exclusive sovereign rights. But China continues to dispute it.

It has been eyed as a possible replacement for Malampaya, whose natural gas deposits are expected to run out in 10 years. Malampaya accounts for 20 percent of the country’s power supply.

The Recto Bank exploration was put on hold following an order from the late former President Benigno Aquino III in 2012 freezing all exploration activities in disputed areas.

Duterte in 2020 lifted the suspension of oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea, paving the way for the resumption of drilling activities in the disputed waters, including the Recto Bank.

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