» 07/31/2012 09:29 PHILIPPINES - CHINA South China Sea: Manila to auction off three areas disputed by Beijing The area of contention is off the western island of Palawan. For the Philippine government the area, rich in natural gas, is located within its national territory. Energy Secretary: "our rights are not negotiable." Local and foreign companies expected to attend auction, including Total, Eni and Shell.
/ Agencies) - The Philippine government launched a tender for the exploration
of three areas rich in oil and natural gas in the South China Sea - which Manila
calls West Philippine
Sea - an area in the center
of a bitter dispute with Beijing. The
auction should see the participation of various national and international
companies, including the French energy giant Total, Exxon USA, the Italian Eni
and Dutch Royal Shell. It
is an attempt by Manila to reduce dependence on foreign imports and to counter Beijing's
expansionist ambitions in the Asia-Pacific region, which in the past has
promoted bids for sea exploration (see AsiaNews 28/06/2012 South
China Sea, tension between Manila, Hanoi and Beijing. A code of conduct useless), triggering protests from the
Philippines and Vietnam.
Philippine Energy Secretary Jose Layug states that all three blocks covered by
the contract belong to the national territory and are located off the western
island of Palawan, where large reserves of underground natural gas were recently
official also rejected Beijing's assertions that the area is within China's maritime
"All the areas we have offered - adds Layug - are well within the 200 nautical mile exclusive
economic zone of the Philippines under the UNCLOS", the United Nations Convention
of the Law of the Seas. The
Secretary concludes that "the Philippines exercises exclusive sovereign rights and authority to
explore and exploit resources within these areas to the exclusion of other
countries. There is no doubt and dispute about such rights."
archipelago in the South China Sea, potentially rich in undersea oil fields, is
disputed by China, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan, Philippines and Malaysia and there
have been various attempts by all parties to take possession of an atoll or
other produce friction. The
Philippines and Vietnam accuse Beijing of being overly aggressive in claiming
sovereignty over the archipelago (see AsiaNews 04/07/2012 As
China's foreign policy hardens, it is Beijing versus all). In
recent weeks there have been clashes between Filipino, Vietnamese and Chinese vessels.
particular, the tension between Beijing and Manila peaked last April when a Chinese
patrol vessels blocked - off Scarborough Shoal - Philippine navy boats, as they
were about to stop Chinese vessels that had entered Filippino territorial
hegemonic ambitions of Beijing also worry that the United States which has
increased its naval presence in the Pacific. According
to experts at Brusselsbasedorganization the International Crisis Group (ICG), the prospects for settlement
of disputes "are declining" and although a war is
"unlikely", all signals "are going in the wrong direction."