The Philippines is “seriously studying” the possibility of conducting joint exploration of natural resources programs with China in an area both countries claim in the South China Sea, according to a Philippine diplomat.

GMA News reports cited Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana as saying Monday that the departments of energy and foreign affairs had already been tasked to study the prospect of jointly exploring disputed waters in an area Manila refers to as the West Philippine Sea.

Sta. Romana underlined that the study comes with the government expecting energy supplies from its Malampaya gas fields to start to decline in 10 years.

In July, an international tribunal in The Hague ruled in favor of Manila in a maritime dispute pursued by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s predecessor, concluding that China had no legal basis to claim historic rights to the bulk of the sea.

Duterte has said he is open to joint oil exploration with China in the area, even as he reiterated that he would eventually bring up the Hague ruling.

The West Philippine Sea refers to portions of the South China Sea that are claimed by the Philippines as part of its territory and exclusive economic zone.

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