Sunday, July 15, 2012

China: No oil exploration in West Philippine Sea allowed sans permission

China is opposed to plans by the Philippines to offer oil exploration contracts in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), stressing that any exploration activities without its permission are illegal.

“Without permission from the Chinese government, oil exploration activities by any country or any company in waters under China’s jurisdiction are illegal,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said in an article posted Friday on the Chinese government’s Web site.

According to him, China has repeatedly made representations with the Philippines for in connection with its bidding out of oil exploration contracts in some areas of the West Philippine Sea.

Such actions, he added, violate China’s interests.

Liu’s remarks came in response to Energy Undersecretary James Layug’s statement on the sidelines of an energy forum in Manila on Wednesday that the Philippines will offer on July 31 oil exploration contracts for  three areas or blocs in the West Philippine Sea off the coast of Palawan.

According to Layug, the three blocs are believed to be the most promising for oil and gas deposits. He said China had not objected to the plans to bid out the contracts for the three blocs.

“All reserves in that area belong to the Philippines. We will only offer areas within our exclusive economic zone,” Layug said. “These are all beside our existing service contracts so there is no doubt that these areas belong to the Philippines.”

Liu called on the Philippines to do its part in maintaining peace and stability in the area.

“China urges the Philippines to adhere to the principle of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and not to take action that may lead to complication and escalation of tensions,” Liu said.

China also claimed that at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations  Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Cambodia this week, China and the Asean countries had discussions and reached a consensus on the West Philippine Sea issue.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said China called for shelving disputes and seeking joint development on the West Philippine Sea issue.

He said he hoped that all parties will do more to enhance mutual trust and promote cooperation for the formulation of a code of conduct in the area.

Tensions between the Philippines and China have recently risen due to conflicting claims over parts of the West Philippine Sea.

The focus of the latest conflict is the Scarborough Shoal, which the Philippines insists is well within its exclusive economic zone but which China claims as part of its territory along with most of the South China Sea.

Another West Philippine Sea area, the potentially oil-rich Recto Bank (internationally known as Reed Bank), is also due for development by the Philippines but has been claimed by China.

Last year, the Philippines accused China of harassing an oil exploration ship at Recto Bank.

While China cites history as its basis for claiming nearly all of the West Philippine Sea even up to the coast of its neighbors, the Philippines cites international law to bolster its claims. -Philippine Daily Inquirer (July 14, 2012 8:06PM)

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