President Rodrigo Duterte is not inclined to immediately lift the existing moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) until such time that it serves the country’s highest interest.

The President made this stand when asked by reporters about the possibility of a joint exploration between the Philippines and China, and the eventual lifting of the moratorium.

“I will only lift it when I think the higher interest of the Philippines is served,” the President said at the sidelines of the League of Cities assembly in Taguig City, Tuesday night.

The Chief Executive, however, said that the joint exploration is still “one of the possibilities” with other players from claimant countries, mostly from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.

“It’s one of the possibilities that will happen or can happen or will happen in South China Sea. There’s really — it’s an area too big. But I think the players there would really be the ASEAN members who are also claimants. There’s overlapping,” he said.

He explained that the issue is not only between the Philippines and China, China and Taipei, China and Viet Nam, and China and Malaysia, or China and Indonesia.

“Wala… ‘Yung atin is one aspect of the problem. The totality of the problem is that almost all claimants are within the ASEAN neighborhood,” the President pointed out.

Under the projected joint exploration, the President surmised that parties could also jointly explore what they can extract, such as valuable minerals, aside from the ores.

“That’s what they’re looking at,” he said.

On the other hand, the President stood firm on his decision not to allow black sand mining in the Philippines.

“For example, like the black sand, this has to stop. Nobody is allowed. Nobody but nobody is allowed to mine the black sands and export it,” he said.

Citing scientific claims, the President noted that there are a lot of “useful and maybe expensive” minerals that could be taken out from black sand.

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