In a telling sign of the dramatic turn in Philippine-China relations, the two nations recently agreed to pursue joint development agreements (JDA) on hydrocarbon deposits in the South China Sea. During his late March visit to Beijing, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano hailed a “golden period” in Philippine-China relations, and reiterated his country’s commitment to ensuring disputes in the South China Sea would not derail ties with Beijing.
Instead, the Filipino diplomat expressed his hopes that the maritime spats “will be turned into a source of friendship and cooperation between our two countries.” Specifically, diplomats discussed the possibility of an “offshore oil and gas exploration” scheme based on a “suitable legal framework” that circumvents sovereignty disputes and provides a mutually-beneficial outcome.
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, however, tried to reassure everyone that any resource-sharing deal would be pursued in “a prudent and steady way” so as to secure its viability. During his early April visit to China for the Boao Forum, Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte also discussed joint-development plans with his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, who underlined his commitment to ensure “the task of this year shall be upgrading the relationship.”