China’s Joint Energy Development with the Philippines
By admin July 26, 2017

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China’s Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, stated that he supported a joint energy partnership with the Philippines in the South China Sea. This comes on the heel of comments by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte saying he had found a partner to develop oil fields and that exploration would resume later this year.

The issue with the South China Sea is the overlapping maritime rights of the various countries that claim to have overlapping borders in the area. Oil development was originally suspended in 2014 in the South China Sea. The Philippines was waiting on a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague to make a decision on maritime border rights. The Hague’s ruling invalidated China’s claim to the majority of the Sea. The case was originally sent to The Hague due to Chinese harassment of Philippine ships in 2011 and its control of Scarborough Shoal in 2012. The court ruled in favor of the Philippines and its rights to their 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) where Reed Bank, the oil rich area, is located.

China and the Philippines had originally proposed to jointly develop resources in the disputed water in 1986, but a framework could not be agreed upon at that time to push the joint venture forward. Although a joint venture is now on the table, there are still a lot of necessary steps to enable it come to fruition.

The political sensitivity of the issue will make any agreement between the two countries complex. China says a framework is in the making between them and the various Southeast Asian countries to regulate maritime traffic and trade in the Sea. This would be a first step in settling any disputes that countries may have in the future. One possible reason for the progress on the issue was a veiled reference that the Chinese Foreign Minister made towards the United States. He stated that it was important for regional friends to stand together in the face of outside interference. Beijing sees American action in the region as being provocative, unnecessary, and a test against their sovereignty.

Regardless of the cause for the partnership, whether it be an effort to hinder external influences or just gain a greater resource capacity, China and the Philippines have taken the first step in resolving the South China Sea issue without resorting to conflict. This can set an example for other countries in the region to come together and settle future disputes in the Sea.

Further Reading:

China backs joint energy development with the Philippines in disputed sea

China backs joint oil drilling with PH in disputed sea

China backs joint energy development with Philippines in South China Sea, urges Asean to reject outside interference

Why is the South China Sea contentious?

China is about to win “joint exploration” of an energy sweet spot reserved for the Philippines

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