Even as the Philippines lifted its ban on oil exploration in the South China Sea, opening the way for deals with China, India has offered to give coastal surveillance radar systems to Philippines to improve maritime domain awareness (MDA). At a virtual meeting between foreign ministers of India and Philippines on Friday, foreign ministers S Jaishankar and Teodoro Locsin Jr revived a joint commission that last met over five years ago.
An MEA readout said the two sides “agreed to further strengthen defence engagement and maritime cooperation between the two countries, especially in military training and education, capacity building, regular goodwill visits, and procurement of defence equipment. They agreed to enhance cooperation in the area of counterterrorism with information exchange between concerned agencies and support in terms of specialised training needs.”
In October, Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte’s government lifted the ban on exploration in the South China Sea, which could pave the way for “joint” oil exploration projects, particularly with Chinese energy companies like China National Offshore Oil Corporation.
The six-year ban on oil exploration was lifted just before talks between Philippines and Chinese entities and observers in the region expect to see joint exploration projects being inked between China and Philippines. The Philippines expects this to be acceptable to Beijing, as well as re-affirming Manila’s sovereignty over these seas. China considers these to be disputed waters, and its debatable whether they would accept Philippines’ premise.
Locsin, the Filipino foreign minister, waxed eloquent about how they could benefit from India’s experience in online and distance learning in a set of tweets after the meeting. The MEA statement said Jaishankar “invited Filipino students, scholars and academicians to avail the ITEC and e-ITEC initiatives, and make use of integrated PhD fellowships offered to Asean students at IITs.” India also invited Philippines to join the International Solar Alliance and the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure.