MANILA— The Philippines is open to new talks with China on oil and gas exploration, the Southeast Asian country’s foreign affairs chief said on Wednesday.
A deal with China or any other country on joint oil and gas exploration, however, should comply with Philippine laws, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo, said during a congressional hearing on his department’s 2023 budget.
Talks over joint energy exploration between Manila and Beijing in the South China Sea had been terminated, Manalo’s predecessor said in June, citing constitutional constraints and issues of sovereignty.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr, who took power in June, said last month he would try to “find ways to work to resolve the conflicts that we have” with China, so ties could normalize after years of maritime disputes.
Manalo told lawmakers that future activities related to oil and gas cooperation in the South China Sea “will be anchored on the Philippine constitution and with the national interest as the primordial consideration”.
China’s embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Manalo’s remarks.
A 2016 international arbitration ruling made clear the Philippines had sovereign rights to exploit energy reserves inside its 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone. But China, which claims about 90% of the South China Sea as its territory, has refused to recognize that decision.
—Reporting by Enrico Dela CruzEditing by Bernadette Baum