China bucks PH oil drilling deals
MANILA, Philippines—China has opposed plans by the Philippines to offer oil exploration contracts in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), stressing that any exploration without its permission was 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 spokesperson Liu Weimin said in an article posted Friday on the Chinese government’s web portal.
According to Liu, China has repeatedly lodged protests with the Philippines for bidding out oil exploration contracts in parts of the waters.
Such actions, he added, violated China’s interests.
Liu’s remarks came in response to Energy Undersecretary James Layug’s statement at the sidelines of an energy forum in Manila on Wednesday that the Philippines will offer oil exploration contracts for three blocs off the coast of Palawan in the West Philippine Sea on July 31.
According to Layug, the three blocs are believed to be the most promising for oil and gas deposits. He added that 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, adding: “These are all beside our existing service contracts so there is no doubt that these areas belong to the Philippines.
Liu also called on the Philippines to make its due contribution to 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 the complication and escalation of tensions,” Liu said.
China also claimed that it and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) had discussions and reached a consensus on the South China Sea issue at the China-Asean Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Cambodia last week. (See related story on Page A2.)
Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said China had called for shelving disputes and seeking joint development in the South China Sea.
He said he was hoping that all parties would 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 Panatag Shoal, which the Philippines insists is well within its exclusive economic zone but which China claims along with most of the West Philippine Sea.
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