Spratlys - Nansha Islands of China


RP, China, Vietnam to explore Spratlys

By Ma. Theresa Torres and  Niel Villegas Mugas, Reporters 

THE national oil companies of the Philippines, China and Vietnam on Monday signed an agreement to conduct a joint three-year seismic survey of the Spratly Islands, a disputed archipelago in the South China Sea.

The survey will provide clues to the potential oil and gas reserves in the area, which is claimed by China, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia, said Eduardo Mañalac, president of the state-owned Philippine National Oil Co.

He described the agreement as a purely “commercial transaction that has no reference to political claims or territorial rights.”

Manalac said the three companies, which include China National Offshore Oil Corp. and Vietnam Oil and Gas Corp., were still working out the budget for preexploration, but that the activity would be shared equally.

President Arroyo on Monday stressed the importance of the joint seismic survey in the South China Sea in her 10-point priority program.

She said the first phase of her 10-point propoor program includes balancing the budget, plugging corruption and rationalizing the power sector.

Mrs. Arroyo said the Tripartite Agreement for Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking in the Agreement Area in the South China Sea is “not only a diplomatic breakthrough for peace and security in the region; it is also a breakthrough for our energy independence program because one of the elements of this program is to work on strategic alliances with our friends and allies, so that we can have more supply of energy for the region and our country.”

China and Vietnam, which have built permanent structures in the Spratlys, clashed over the island group in 1988 and 1992. Other countries have had skirmishes. Two years ago, China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations adopted a nonbinding declaration that forbids construction on uninhabited islands to prevent territorial disputes from escalating.

Last week the Philippines and Vietnam announced plans to conduct scientific research in the South China Sea in April. The move was criticized by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, which called on all claimants to “follow the principles enshrined in the Declaration on the South China Sea.”



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