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The Philippines Could Start Oil Drilling In South China Sea Without China

The Philippines could begin exploring for oil and gas in the disputed South China Sea even without a Chinese partner, Philippine Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said on Wednesday, Bloomberg reports.  

Last month, the Philippines lifted a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the recommendation of the country’s Energy Department to lift the moratorium on exploration in the West Philippine Sea, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said in the middle of October. The service contractors of three blocks in the West Philippine Sea have already been notified that they could resume exploration in their respective licenses, Cusi added.  

The moratorium was imposed by Duterte’s predecessor Benigno Aquino III when the Philippines took China to court over the long-running dispute over territorial water claims in the South China Sea.

A court in The Hague in 2016 ruled against China’s claims and in favor of the Philippines. China, however, has not acknowledged the ruling, which has heightened tensions in the area. Instead, it has continued with its agenda, according to which most of the sea is Chinese waters. The long-running dispute in the South China Sea involves territorial claims by China as well as Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, and Malaysia. China has territorial claims to about 90 percent of the South China Sea, which has put it at odds with its neighbors.

In recent months, Duterte has become more critical of China’s territorial claims, according to Bloomberg, after years of seeking closer ties with Beijing.

Philippine Energy Secretary Cusi said on Wednesday that Philippine company PXP Energy, which holds the rights to explore in one of the blocks in the disputed sea, could do the survey and exploration drilling by itself, answering a question if the Philippine firm should first obtain China’s consent to carry out surveys in the block.

“If they can’t do it and they need a partner, they have to partner with China,” Cusi said, as quoted by Bloomberg.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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