Thursday, 15 August 2013
UK company interested in exploration of disputed West Philippines Sea
Forum Energy Company (FEC) has made an expression of interest to the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) earlier this month to begin exploration for gas and oil in the disputed West Philippines Sea. The company, which boasts a number of projects in the Philippines, can already navigate 18 miles off the coast of Palawan, under the conditions set out in its Service Contracts 40 and 72. FEC presented its case to the directors of the PCSD at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Session Hall on 2 August.
Governor of Palawan Jose Alvarez, who attended the presentation, reassured FEC that it would not restrict the company's efforts to explore further afield offshore Palawan, instead urging caution and care, particularly in relation to the natural environment, insisting that the PCSD would fully support pro-development projects on the condition that they were non-intrusive and benefitted the local community. Regarding the safety of the UK oil firm's employees in the waters of the highly disputed West Philippine Sea, Chief of Staff of the Western Command, Colonel Emmanuel Salamat, claimed that the strong Philippine military presence in the area would ensure the security of FEC's offshore operations.
China lays claim to, and has de facto control of, virtually the entire South China Sea, despite the claims of a total of six countries to maritime territory in the South China Sea. This horseshoe-shaped area, delineated by China's so-called “nine-dash line”, stretches over a vast area that Beijing claims historical rights to. Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Albert Del Rosario, argues that this territory encompasses not only the entire South China Sea but also violates Philippine rights to a Territorial Sea and Contiguous Zone, an EEZ and a continental shelf, as stipulated by UNCLOS.
Last year saw a standoff involving Chinese military ships and Philippine vessels after the former took control of the Scarborough Shoal, referred to by China as Nansha, over 500km due West of Manila. The Philippines also lay claim to the Spratly Islands, which lie in the vicinity of Palawan, under the legal justification of Res Nullius. Beijing insists on its “indisputable sovereignty over the islands in [the] South China Sea and its adjacent waters” and has refused calls by its maritime neighbour to settle the dispute through arbitration.