Philippines to restart oil and gas exploration in South China Sea.

The Philippine government has decided to resume oil exploration in the disputed South China Sea. This decision of Philippines was taken without consulting China.

Highlights

  • The President of Philippine, Rodrigo Duterte, approved the lifting of a six-year moratorium on oil exploration in the Palawan Island.
  • The area where exploration would resume lies within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS)
  • The petroleum-related activities will resume in three offshore areas.

Background

The moratorium on oil exploration was imposed in 2014. It was imposed in the light of tensions between the Philippines and China because of their overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea.

China’s stand

China expressed that it hope the two countries would cooperate for joint exploration in future. Both the countries had reached the consensus on the joint development of oil and gas resources in the South China Sea and had also established a cooperation mechanism.

South China Sea

It is a marginal sea in the Western Pacific Ocean. The sea is enclosed in the north by the shores of South China,  in west by the Indochinese Peninsula, in east by the islands of Taiwan and northwestern Philippines while in south by Borneo, eastern Sumatra and the Bangka Belitung Islands. It connects to the East China Sea through the Taiwan Strait, connects to the Philippine Sea through the Luzon Strait while to the Sulu Sea through the straits around Palawan. It also connects the Indian Ocean through the Strait of Malacca. Java Sea connects to it through the Karimata and Bangka Strait.

Significance

The region have huge economic and geostrategic importance. It gives passes to the One-third of the world’s maritime shipping through it. Thus, the region encompasses over US $3 trillion trade each year. The region have a huge reserves of oil and natural gas beneath its seabed. It also comprises lucrative fisheries that ensures the food security in Southeast Asia for many.

South China sea Dispute

Many countries have made territorial claims over the South China Sea and so the dispute in the region is regarded as the Asia’s most dangerous point of conflict. China and Taiwan claims the entire region as their own by demarcating their claims within the nine-dotted line. Other claims include:

  • Indonesia, China, and Taiwan claims the waters NE of the Natuna Islands
  • The Philippines, China, and Taiwan claims over Scarborough Shoal.
  • Vietnam, China, and Taiwan have dispute over waters west of the Spratly Islands.
  • All of the islands are also disputed between Vietnam, China, Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines.
  • The Paracel Islands is claimed by China, Taiwan and Vietnam.
  • Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam claim the areas in the Gulf of Thailand.
  • Singapore and Malaysia claim the Strait of Johore and the Strait of Singapore.