The Philippines protested a new “intrusion” by China in waters it claims to be Philippine territory, a move that threatens to revive tensions over areas of the South China Sea that may contain energy reserves.
Two Chinese vessels and a military ship were spotted on Dec. 11 and 12 “at the vicinity” of Escoda Shoal, which is within Philippine territory, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in an e-mailed statement yesterday. The department on Jan. 5 “conveyed to the Chinese Embassy’s Charge d’Affaires its serious concerns over recent actions” in the South China Sea, it said in the statement.
Oil reserves in the South China Sea, which contains two disputed island chains, may total as much as 213 billion barrels, according to Chinese studies cited in 2008 by the U.S. Energy Information Agency. The Philippines and Vietnam have pushed China to redraw its maritime boundaries according to the United Nations Law of the Sea, a move that would cost it large swathes of its claims in the waters.
The “intrusions of the Chinese are clear violations” of regional and global accords, Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said in the statement, citing the UN maritime law and the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties on the disputed waters.
Telephone calls to the press office at China’s Foreign Ministry in Beijing weren’t answered yesterday. Chinese embassy spokesman in Manila Ethan Sun didn’t returned a phone call yesterday seeking comment.
‘Hot and Thorny’
China continues to see “hot and thorny issues” in Asia, where economic risks remain and non-traditional security issues such as natural disasters pose “greater challenges,” China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin said in an interview published yesterday by Xinhua News Agency.
China “respects and supports its Asian neighbors’ choices of development paths according to their own national conditions and insists on settling disputes via dialogue and consultation,” Liu said in the interview.
Other Asian nations “also consider their relations with China as one of their most important foreign relations and to strengthen the cooperation with China is an irresistible trend,” the report cited Liu as saying.
In November, China played down tensions with the U.S. and proposed funding to enhance maritime cooperation in Southeast Asia after President Barack Obama challenged its actions in the South China Sea at a summit of Asian leaders.
The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which includes the Philippines, may be ready with a draft code of conduct in the sea by July 2012, del Rosario said on Nov. 21.
The Philippines and Vietnam, which have awarded exploration contracts to Exxon Mobil Corp., Talisman Energy Inc. and Forum Energy Plc, reject China’s map of the sea as a basis for joint development.
China has used patrol boats to disrupt hydrocarbon survey activities in waters it claims, chasing away a ship working for Forum Energy off the Philippines in March and slicing cables of a survey vessel doing work for Vietnam in May.