China okay with PH disclosing MOU on joint oil exploration deal

By Chad de Guzman, CNN Philippines

China sees no problem with the Philippines’ disclosure of the contents of the recently-signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two countries on talks for joint oil and gas exploration.

“As far as I know, this MOU is not a confidential agreement. If the Philippines wants to disclose it, China is open to such an arrangement,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Geng Shuang said in a press briefing in Beijing Friday.

Geng was responding to the reservations expressed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin, when he told CNN Philippines’ The Source that he had to ask China for permission for the release of the documents.

“Whether an MOU can be made public depends on the understanding reached between the two sides during the negotiation process and the relevant specific provisions in the text of the document itself,” Geng explained.

Some senators and Vice President Leni Robredo earlier expressed concern over the government’s alleged lack of transparency on the 29 bilateral agreements signed during the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Locsin said he will give copies of the MOU to senators on Monday.

The signed document, Locsin said, is an “agreement to agree” between the two countries. But lawmakers were wary of the deal, saying it may weaken the Philippines’ claims over disputed regions in the South China Sea.

China has refused to observe a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration which recognizes Philippine sovereign rights over the contested waters.

Geng affirmed the MOU is a testament of trust and respect between the two countries.

“The relevant cooperation will not affect the respective legal stance of the two sides,'” he added.

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