Philippines’ Duterte says Xi offering gas deal if arbitration case ignored

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has acknowledged he’s short of solutions for having China adhere to Manila’s arbitration victory in their South China Sea disputes. (File/AP)
Updated 11 September 2019

Philippines’ Duterte says Xi offering gas deal if arbitration case ignored

  • If Duterte ignores the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s 2016 ruling, China would agree to be the junior partner in a joint venture to develop gas deposits at the Reed Bank
  • The tribunal in The Hague clarified maritime boundaries and the Philippines’ sovereign entitlements

MANILA: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said his Chinese counterpart has offered Manila a controlling stake in a joint energy venture in the South China Sea, if it sets aside an international arbitral award that went against Beijing.
Duterte said Chinese President Xi Jinping told him during their recent meeting that if he ignored the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s 2016 ruling, China would agree to be the junior partner in a joint venture to develop gas deposits at the Reed Bank, located within Manila’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
“Set aside the arbitral ruling,” Duterte was quoted as telling reporters late Tuesday in remarks provided by his office on Wednesday.
“Set aside your claim,” he said, quoting Xi. “Then allow everybody connected with the Chinese companies. They want to explore. If there is something, they said, we will be gracious enough to give you 60%, only 40% will be theirs. That is the promise of Xi Jinping.”
China’s foreign ministry and its embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Duterte’s remarks.
The tribunal in The Hague clarified maritime boundaries and the Philippines’ sovereign entitlements, and in doing so, invalidated China’s claims to almost the entire South China Sea. China does not recognize the ruling.
Duterte has sought to befriend Xi, hoping to secure billions of dollars of investment, avoiding challenging China over its activities in the South China Sea, including its militarised artificial islands.
Big setback
Any agreement to forget the arbitral award and team up with China would be a major setback to other claimants, especially Vietnam and Malaysia, which like the Philippines have experienced repeated challenges from China’s coast guard inside their EEZs.
The United States has called that bullying and coercion aimed at denying rivals’ access to their energy assets.
Duterte did not say if he had agreed to Xi’s offer, but said the part of the arbitral award that referred to the EEZ “we will ignore to come up with an economic activity.”
The tribunal said the Philippines had legal rights to exploit gas deposits that China also claims at the Reed Bank, about 85 miles (140km) off the Philippine coast.
The Philippines only accessible gas resources at the Malampaya fields are set to run out by 2024.
A joint project with China has been talked about for decades, but has gone nowhere because of their competing claims. Joint activity could be deemed as legitimising the other side’s claim, or even relinquishing sovereign rights.
Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin on Wednesday told news channel ANC that a preliminary agreement between China and the Philippines would avoid stating which country was entitled to the gas.
“It’s very clear — no legal position is compromised if we enter into this agreement,” Locsin said, adding that putting aside the arbitration case was immaterial, because an international court had already made its decision.
“It’s final and binding,” he added.


Bank jobs go as HSBC and Emirates NBD reduce costs

Updated 15 November 2019

Bank jobs go as HSBC and Emirates NBD reduce costs

  • Others have also reduced headcount amid economic downturn and property market weakness

DUBAI: HSBC Holdings has laid off about 40 bankers in the UAE and Emirates NBD is cutting around 100 jobs, as banks in the Arab world’s second-biggest economy reduce costs.

The cuts come amid weak economic growth, especially in Dubai, which is suffering from a property downturn.

HSBC’s redundancies came after the London-based bank reported a sharp fall in earnings and warned of a costly restructuring, as interim CEO Noel Quinn seeks to tackle its problems head-on.

HSBC has about 3,000 staff in the UAE, part of a nearly 10,000-strong workforce in the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey.

The cuts at Dubai’s largest lender Emirates NBD came in consumer sales and liabilities, one source said, while a second played down the significance of the move.

HSBC and Emirates NBD declined to comment.

“The cuts are part of cost cutting and rationalizing to drive efficiencies in a challenging market,” the second source said.

Other banks have also reduced staff this year. UAE central bank data shows local banks laid off 446 people in the 12 months until the end of September. Foreign banks added staff in the same period.

Staff at local banks account for over 80 percent of the 35,518 banking employees in the country.

The merger between Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank, Union Commercial Bank and Al Hilal Bank saw hundreds of redundancies.

Commercial Bank International (CBI) said it would offer voluntary retirement to employees in September, which sources said saw over 100 departures. Standard Chartered, too, cut over 100 jobs in the UAE in September.

Rating agency Fitch warned in September a weakening property market would put more pressure on the UAE’s banking sector.