News / Economy

Oil Companies Try to Collaborate in Spite of S. China Sea Disputes

Philippine Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla talks to foreign correspondents during a forum with President Benigno Aquino, Oct. 23, 2013 in Manila. Philippine Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla talks to foreign correspondents during a forum with President Benigno Aquino, Oct. 23, 2013 in Manila.
x
Philippine Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla talks to foreign correspondents during a forum with President Benigno Aquino, Oct. 23, 2013 in Manila.
Philippine Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla talks to foreign correspondents during a forum with President Benigno Aquino, Oct. 23, 2013 in Manila.
— The Philippines and China have developed an openly antagonistic relationship over their South China Sea territorial disputes. But while top officials trade accusations, some groups are looking for ways to compromise and jointly drill for oil and gas. 

The Philippines' only productive deep-water natural gas project is expected to run dry by 2024.

Click to enlargeClick to enlarge
x
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
The country is desperate to develop new oil and gas wells in the resource-rich South China Sea. Philippines Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said he is hopeful about the potential for an unlikely collaboration between U.K.-based Forum Energy and state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC).

"The alternative is not to drill, probably forever... You have to look at the alternatives," he said. "You want to preserve your sovereign rights but at the same time- without actually compromising your sovereign rights, can you come up with commercial [exploration], because we need it."

Both the Philippines and China need the energy locked underneath the seabed, but they cannot agree on how to divvy it up, since each country claims the region as its own. 

While that larger issue remains unresolved, energy companies tied to the two nations are trying to find a path forward. Forum Energy is majority-owned by the Philippine-based Philex Petroleum, which has been trying to form a partnership with CNOOC to help it meet a contract to drill two natural gas wells at Reed Bank, just west of the Philippines western-most province, Palawan.

China claims indisputable sovereignty over practically the entire South China Sea, which Beijing says includes Reed Bank.  The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also claim partial or total stakes in the heavily traversed waters. 

Philippines officials say they are hoping to find a way forward by taking some lessons from a deal between Vietnam and China, which have an arrangement to explore waters in the Gulf of Tonkin in the South China Sea, although exactly how they would divvy up the proceeds of a productive well remains unclear.

Yang Fang, a researcher at the Center for Asia and Globalization at Singapore’s National University, says the two nations are relying on clauses in the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that allow parties in a dispute to have a provisional arrangement regarding maritime borders.  And this provision would be untouched by any final determination of who owns what.

"Vietnam is more pragmatic and also maintains very open and regular communication with China both through the higher official level meeting and also the party to party communication.  So that the political will is strong and also they can bring it down to the practical level," said Yang Fang.

Skeptics of the Vietnam / China model, such as Carl Thayer, an expert on South China Sea disputes at the Australia Defense Force Academy, say the agreement gives both parties the appearance of cooperation, while the core disputes remain unresolved.

"China has hyped these agreements and if you look at them very carefully, they only represent very modest steps forward.  And they don't yet get into joint development," he said.

Despite optimism from Philippine energy executives about finding a way to strike a deal, President Benigno Aquino has been clear that any partnership between Forum Energy and CNOOC would have to abide by the Philippine position in the dispute.

"We maintain that the area that Forum Energy is exploring is clearly within our EEZ [exclusive economic zone] and therefore, any exploitation of the same has to be in conformity with our laws," he said.

The Philippines says China has encroached on its 370-kilometer exclusive economic zone numerous times and it filed a case in January with the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea to try to reaffirm its claims. A ruling in that case could come as soon as next year.

You May Like

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7305
JPY
USD
101.53
GBP
USD
0.5830
CAD
USD
1.0656
INR
USD
60.075

Rates may not be current.