Manila is set to agree on joint petroleum exploration with Beijing

The Duterte administration is sent to enter into an agreement with China to jointly explore energy sources in the disputed West Philippine sea, the Philippine Inquirer reported on Wednesday.

Government officials were in talks with their Chinese counterparts to finalize a deal that could see both governments work hand in hand to find oil or gas in the uncontested areas in South China Sea.

A government official said that the uncontested areas are those closer to the Philippines, including Recto Bank.

Forum Energy Plc, holds the license for Service Contract 72, which covers Recto Bank, known internationally as Reed Bank. The company is a subsidiary of Manuel Pangilinan-led Philex Petroleum Corp.

Pangilinan is one of the businessmen joining the official business delegation of Mr Duterte’s four-day state visit to China.

Forum Energy was licensed a few years ago to conduct drilling survey in an oil exploration are, but territorial dispute later prompted the government to suspend exploration activities.

An official of the delegation said the proposed deal called for cooperation of the two countries to start closer to the the Philippines and away from disputed areas as a confidence building measure.

If the deal went through, the joint energy exploration would mark one of the most dramatic foreign policy turnaround in recent history of the Philippines.