The Philippines and China have their differences, but the two Asian neighbors don't let these get in the way and focus on more beneficial stuff, like exploring oil in the West Philippine Sea, to keep their friendship strong.
Their partnership will move to a new level when a high-ranking Philippine official confirmed on Wednesday that China has acknowledged receipt of its willingness to engage in joint oil exploration in the contested waters.
Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. met with China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi during the sidelines of the 52nd ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand Tuesday.
Locsin described China's terms of reference on the proposed joint exploration as "superior" to those of Manila. Generally speaking, "terms of reference" is defined as the framework and purpose of a project.
Locsin said he "accepted China's terms of reference on the 'perfect' memorandum of understanding on oil and gas exploration," he disclosed in a tweet, Wednesday.
However, Locsin made it clear that a deadline has not yet been set for the structure of the proposed undertaking between China and the Philippines but stressed that China's terms in the joint-venture project were "more faithful" compared to the Philippines' "verbose version" that Locsin disapproved.
The foreign affairs chief pointed out that negotiations "were going well," but denied remarks made earlier by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi that China and Philippines are considering a November deadline.
Locsin stated that the memorandum of understanding (MOU) that President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese leader Xi Jinping signed last November only committed both parties to do their best to arrive at an agreement before the year ends.
Locsin upheld Manila's eagerness to work with the ASEAN member nations and Beijing on ongoing infrastructure projects, during his recent meeting with Wang.
The Philippines serves as coordinator for China-ASEAN dialogue relations. China and it's Southeast Asian neighbors are currently exerting efforts on the South China Sea Code of Conduct.
According to a Department of Foreign Affairs statement, Locsin lauded the "continued progress in the current negotiations to attain a substantive Code of Conduct on the South China Sea."
Meanwhile, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said that protecting the public interest is the government's position in discussing the China-Philippines oil joint venture. "Our stance is that we would make sure what will be beneficial for the government," Panelo disclosed during a press conference in at the Malacanang Palace this week.