China has claimed new territory less than 80km from a Philippine province after Manila invited foreign investors to explore for oil and gas in the area, but the Philippines has dismissed the claim, an official said yesterday.
Philippine Energy Undersecretary Jose Layug Jr said that China protested the exploration plan in July. It is the closest point in waters off the main Philippine islands that China has claimed in increasingly tense South China Sea territorial disputes.
Beijing’s action will likely -bolster Philippine resolve to seek a UN ruling on the long-simmering disputes, which involve China, Philippines and four other claimants.
Among the areas being contested is the Spratlys, which are called the Nansha (南沙) Islands in Taiwan and China, a chain of up to 190 islands, reefs, coral outcrops and banks believed to be sitting atop large deposits of oil and natural gas, which many fear could be Asia’s next flash point for conflict.
The issue is expected to be discussed tomorrow with visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
The two new areas being claimed by China are not part of the Spratlys, Layug said.
The Chinese Embassy delivered a protest to the Philippine government on July 4 after Manila invited foreign companies to bid for the right to explore for oil and gas in 15 areas. Chinese officials opposed the inclusion of “areas three and four” northwest of Palawan province, claiming they fall under China’s “indisputable sovereignty,” according to a Philippine government report.
Palawan province, about 820km southwest of Manila, faces the South China Sea, which is claimed entirely by China.
China asked the Philippines to cancel oil exploration in the two areas, the nearest of which is just 79 km northwest of Palawan.
Layug said the Philippine government told China the areas were located well within Philippine waters.
“The areas that we’re offering for bidding are all within Philippine territory,” Layug said. “There is no doubt about that.”
The two areas are more than 800km from the nearest Chinese coast, Layug said.
About 50 foreign investors, including some of the world’s largest oil companies, have expressed interest in exploring for oil and gas in the Philippines, half of them in the new areas being claimed by China, because of strong -indications of oil there, he said.
In March, two Chinese vessels tried to drive away a Philippine oil exploration ship from Reed Bank, another area west of Palawan. Two Philippine air force planes were deployed, but the Chinese vessels had disappeared by the time they reached the submerged bank.
The Philippines protested the incident, which it said was one of several intrusions by China into its territorial waters in the first half of the year.
A British company behind the exploration at Reed Bank found very strong indications of natural gas and planned to start drilling in about six months, Layug said.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III plans to discuss a Philippine proposal at an ASEAN summit this week in Bali, Indonesia, to segregate disputed South China Sea areas so coastal states can freely make use of non-disputed areas. China has opposed the plan.
Aquino’s government also plans to bring the territorial disputes before the UN for possible arbitration.
Aquino will stress that peacefully solving overlapping claims in the South China Sea is a “paramount concern” for Manila as well as for the region, according to an internal foreign department document.
ASEAN and China adopted a non-binding code of conduct in 2002 to discourage hostile acts in the South China Sea. The Philippines wants the code to be strengthened with binding rules.
PAST TACTICS: In what some see as a return to hardline strategies, the new Afghan rulers hanged the body of an alleged kidnapper from a crane as warning to criminals The Taliban hanged a dead body from a crane parked in a city square in Afghanistan on Saturday in a gruesome display that signaled the hardline movement’s return to some of its brutal tactics of the past. Taliban officials initially brought four bodies to the central square in the western city of Herat, then moved three of them to other parts of the city for public display, said Wazir Ahmad Seddiqi, who runs a pharmacy on the edge of the square. Taliban officials announced that the four were caught taking part in a kidnapping earlier on Saturday and were killed by police,
Kim Yo-jong, the influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, reached out to South Korea for a second time in recent days, saying Pyongyang would consider taking part in another inter-Korean summit and declaring an end to the war if Seoul adopts a less hostile policy. “I felt that the atmosphere of the South Korean public desiring to recover the inter-Korean relations from a deadlock and achieve peaceful stability as soon as possible is irresistibly strong,” Kim Yo-jong said in a statement issued by the official Korean Central News Agency. “We, too, have the same desire.” Kim’s statement follows one she
A potential lurch to the left in Germany’s election on Sunday is scaring millionaires into moving assets into Switzerland, bankers and tax lawyers say. If the center-left Social Democrats (SPD), hard-left Linke and environmentalist Greens come to power, the reintroduction of a wealth tax and a tightening of inheritance tax could be on the political agenda. “For the super-rich, this is red hot,” said a German-based tax lawyer with extensive Swiss operations. “Entrepreneurial families are highly alarmed.” The move shows how many rich people still see Switzerland as an attractive place to park wealth, despite its efforts to abolish its image as a
‘SMOKESCREEN’: An agreement to declare an end to the Korean War would be ‘of no help at all’ and used to cover up ‘US hostile policy,’ a North Korean official said The influential sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un yesterday said it was “admirable” of South Korea to propose a formal end to the Korean War, but demanded Seoul first drop its “hostile policies” towards Pyongyang. Kim Yo-jong’s remarks, carried by the state-run Korean Central News Agency, were in response to South Korean President Moon Jae-in’s recent calls for declaring an official end to the 1950-1953 conflict that ended in a truce, not a peace treaty, leaving the two sides technically at war for more than half a century. In a speech at the UN General Assembly earlier this week, Moon proposed