JOINT VENTURES. Former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. with former Presidents Fidel V. Ramos and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. De Venecia, on his way to San Francisco and Washington on speaking tour, is pushing for joint exploration and ventures in the contested areas in South China Sea and West Philippine Sea.
By ALFRED GABOT
Editor in Chief
Special to Philippines Today US
SAN FRANCISCO/MANAOAG, Pangasinan (via PhilAmPressPhlTodayUSA) – As he readied for a flight to San Francisco and Washington on a series of meetings on Philippine developments and the global perspective, former Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr. declared the recent visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to China would usher in a new alliance of the Philippines and China that could bring more opportunities for the country and the Filipinos.
At the same time, de Venecia, a former journalist who served five times as speaker of the House of Representatives and the country’s fourth highest leader, aired hopes that joint exploration of some areas in the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea which are believed to be rich in gas and natural resources will now continue “for the benefit of all the claimant countries and their people.”
He recalled that he proposed joint exploration and development of certain areas in the region as early as in the ‘90s during the administration of President Fidel V. Ramos, a fellow leader from Pangasinan, a later supported by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, whose mother also hailed from Pangasinan.
De Venecia later admitted that his proposal was not new, saying it was first broached to then President Corazon Aquino by Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping.
Speaker de Venecia at 80 appeared hale, healthy and witty and the usual jolly person as he shook my hands and then put his arms on my shoulder being an old friend and former president of the National Press Club of the Philippines which he served as one of the founders together with former Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.
He ruled out any return to politics, citing his age. His wife Georgina de Venecia replaced him as representative in the fourth district of Pangasinan which covers Dagupan City, Manaoag, San Jacinto, San Fabian and nearby towns. Mrs. De Venecia, on the other hand, has been replaced by their 29-year-old son Congressman Christopher “Toff” de Venecia.
Speaker de Venecia, however, is active in global parliamentary organizations. He is now the chairman of the International Conference of Asian Political Parties, president of the Centrist Asia Pacific Democrats International and co-chairman of the International Ecological Safety Collaboration Organization.
He said that after speaking engagements in San Francisco where he is expected to also tackle developments in the Philippines, he is going to Washington to preside a global meeting of parliamentarians and also meet the Filipino community.
“There’s new hope for the proposed joint ventures of China and the Philippines following President Duterte’s successful visit of Beijing,” de Venecia said, adding even the other claimant countries like Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia could benefit.
“There should be peace, progress and prosperity in the region,” the former Speaker said.
While former President Ramos has lately became critical to pronouncemens and decisions of Mr. Duterte, particularly on “separating” from the United States, the former Speaker suggested President Duterte should become “centrist” so he can deal with both the US and China without intimidating any one state.
“We live in a global village where everybody should do its share to making our world a better place to live in,” he added.
De Venecia noted that during his state visit to China, Mr. Duterte witnessed the signing of agreements worth $25 billion which are expected to generate some two million jobs.
“The US$13.5 billion investment agreements alone would translate to an expected two million jobs in the next five years,” Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said.
Lopez, who joined the president in the state visit to China, said the agreements cover investments, financing deals, and Memorandum of Agreements (MOAs).
Among the local sectors that will benefit from these deals include manufacturing, agribusiness, trade, finance, tourism, transportation, telecommunication, economic zones and industrial parks, and infrastructure.
The renewed friendship between China and the Philippines has opened huge opportunities for Philippines’ trade and investments in China and the ASEAN market of 1.9 billion people across the region, he said.
China has also disclosed plans to help Mr. Duterte put up railway system in Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao to spur development in the countryside.
In earlier interviews, de Venecia disclosed he had presented and discussed his proposal with leaders of China and Vietnam for an open seas policy and the demilitarization of the area with the pullout of military garrisons.
He said all claimant parties may instead opt for tourism and other modes of economic development as well as declaring the area a “ zone of peace, friendship and development.”
De Venecia has also proposed joint drilling and exploration of the area for the purpose of tapping oil and other resources of the area considering the rising fuel prices in the world market and the chaos in the Middle East.
He backed the revival of the 2005 joint seismic agreement with China and Vietnam, subject to the modification of excluding Reed Bank which is very close to the Philippines.
“We should revive that agreement. We should request that we exclude Reed Bank because it’s too close to Philippines 85 miles from Palawan and more than 500 miles from mainland China,” he said.
He added: “There is no substitute for dialogue and negotiated political settlement in the South China Sea.”
He also said claimant countries can tap the natural resources in the area, which includes oil, under a joint agreement.
Another modification on the proposed revival of the 2005 joint agreement could be the inclusion of
De Venecia had also called for the observance of the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea as well as an effort by claimant countries to make legally binding, the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea to guarantee free, untrammeled navigation for all who sail in the area.