MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte said Monday he would assert Manila’s rights in the West Philippine Sea once its oil exploration with China begins.
Duterte made the clarification after he promised Filipinos during his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) that the government would stand up for Manila’s rights in the West Philippine Sea in “due time.”
“Naghihintay ako (I’m waiting) when they start to dig the oil. Mahirap 'yan eh (That’s difficult), we are [a] claimant, they are a claimant, so we’ll have to say ‘look do not forget me’ and I would insist that as an owner, though conflicting with your plan, we also must have a share of the resources,” he told reporters after his SONA.
Asked for a timetable, Duterte said it may be during his last year as President or in 2022.
“During my term, last ko na lang 'yan (that’s my last) but maybe on the second or first term of my last year, God willing if I’m still alive,” he said.
Duterte previously said that his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping once warned him against drilling for oil in Manila's waters.
China has conflicting claims with the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan in the South China Sea, which is rich in marine resources. It is also believed to have vast natural gas and oil reserves.
The West Philippine Sea is the Philippines' exclusive economic zone in the South China Sea, which China claims in near entirety.
In 2016, the Philippines won a case at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which invalidated China’s 9-dash line claim. The ruling also made clear that the potentially oil-rich Recto (Reed) Bank was inside the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).