Sunday, May 13, 2012

Philippines urges Chinese traders to invest in oil projects

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Despite tensions between the Philippines and China over a territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has invited Chinese-Filipino businessmen to invest in its energy exploration projects in the contested waters. The projects include exploration at Recto Bank (internationally known as Reed Bank) off Palawan, where natural gas was discovered recently. In a meeting on May 8, Assistant Secretary Gilberto Asuque, head of the DFA Ocean Concerns Office, encouraged the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry "to consider investing in Philippine companies undertaking exploration activities in the country's continental shelf." Asuque assured the businessmen that the rights of investors to get involved in projects within the country's territory is protected by the government as well as "our marine resources as provided under international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), and our national laws." Scientific data show that the West Philippine Sea contains vast deposits of oil and natural gas. The area around Recto Bank alone has an estimated 16.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, enough to last for a century, according to the Department of Energy. The department announced earlier that oil and gas explorations at Recto Bank would continue. At 150 kilometres from Palawan, Recto Bank is well within the country's 330-kilometre exclusive economic zone. But China, which claims all of the South China Sea (which the Philippines calls West Philippine Sea), insists Recto Bank is part of its territory. China also insists Scarborough Shoal is its territory, although the shoal is well within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone. The two countries have stationed civilian vessels at Scarborough Shoal in a standoff that has entered its fifth week.