China seeks joint Exploration in the Island and Waters of the Philippines' Spratlys

The Philippines government already pronounce that no more joint exploration to happen in the West Philippines Sea but it is just for the areas which is within 200 Nautical Miles Exclusive Economic Zone but the proposal for joint exploration is acceptable only by the Philippines government if it is beyond the 200 nautical miles.

Joint exploration is lately suggested by the Philippines that disputed areas must be separated from the undisputed areas’ 200 Nautical Miles Exclusive economic Zone.

Wednesday, China seeks a joint exploration of the resource-rich and contested Spratlys, but an agreement on this is unlikely in the forthcoming state visit of President Benigno Aquino III to the mainland, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Liu Jianchao(August 24, 2011).

The conflict between China and the Philippines over the Spratlys will not be solved in one state visit; he said at a press conference prior to the August 30 to September 3 state visit.

“I’m sure the (Spratlys) issue will be discussed. The issue has been there for decades, but we can’t expect it to be settled by just this trip. The visit will enhance understanding of the two governments,” the ambassador said.

The idea of a joint exploration on the disputed islands through a public-private partnership “would be a very, very nice idea if we can do that. Both sides should be patient so that the issue will not affect relations and be settled in a way that can bring prosperity, peace, and stability in the region.”

Liu said the proposal for a joint exploration had been put forward by the Chinese government as early as 1985 when then Chinese Premier Deng Xiao Ping raised the idea to the Philippine foreign secretary.

“Since then, we've been working with the other claimant countries on the possibility of such a joint exploration, so we do hope that this will materialize as soon as possible,” he said, adding that any joint exploration would include even islands occupied by China.

“We believe this is best way for claimant countries to have the opportunity of cooperation,” he added.

In 2005, the Philippines, China, and Vietnam, through their respective national oil companies, agreed to a joint maritime seismic undertaking in the contested areas involving the three countries. Finalized during the time of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the agreement to jointly gather, process, and interpret pre-exploratory seismic data on possible oil and gas reserves ended in 2008; it was not extended to the next stage of assessing the potential of the area.

“I can’t give you a definite date when such an agreement will be reached, but we hope that we can reach a stage that we can agree upon a joint exploration,” the ambassador said.

Aside from the Philippines, China, and Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia also have either partial or complete claims to the islands and rocks in the South China Sea, which the Philippines has renamed West Philippine Sea.

Dispute settlement

President Benigno Aquino III has said that he would raise the border dispute before the International Tribunal on the Law of the Seas. Asked how this would affect the discussions on the contested area, Liu said: “I’m not sure how the two presidents will be discussing this issue, but I’m sure they will discuss the issue in good faith and will not affect the general relations” between the two countries.

The ambassador said Aquino’s first state visit to China would be of great significance in “expanding cooperation between the two countries and strengthening people-to-people understanding.” The dispute, he said, should get in the way of an improved bilateral relationship between China and the Philippines.

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