China Slams PH Over Planned Oil Exploration

MANILA, Philippines - Beijing has once again asked Manila to refrain from escalating tension in South China Sea (West Philippine Sea), this time after the Philippines' Department of Energy (DOE) announced its plans to bid out oil exploration contracts in the disputed waters.

''China has repeatedly lodged representations with the Philippines for their bidding out oil exploration contracts in some of the blocs which has violated China's interests,'' said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin, who was quoted in an article posted on Chinese government website

''Without permission from the Chinese government, oil exploration activities by any country or any company in waters under China's jurisdiction are illegal,'' the spokesman said.

Last Wednesday, DOE Undersecretary James Layug bared that the Philippines would offer three blocs off the coast of Palawan that are believed to be ''the most promising for oil and gas deposits.''

''All reserves in that area belong to the Philippines. We will only offer areas within our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ),'' Layug was quoted as saying, adding that exploration contracts for the three blocs will be bid out on July 31.

In reaction to these statements, China called on the Philippines side to ''make its due contribution to maintaining peace and stability of the South China Sea.''

''China urges the Philippines to adhere to the principle of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, and not to take action that may lead to complication and escalation of tensions,'' Liu said.

China claims the entire South China Sea - a vital international shipping lane - as its own, even up to the coast of other countries. Key territories in these disputed waters include Scarborough Shoal (Bajo de Masinloc) and Spratly Islands (Kalayaan Island Group), which are respectively located off the coasts of Zambales and Palawan.

Believed to be rich in oil and gas deposits as well as a fertile fishing ground, Bajo de Masinloc and Kalayaan both lie within the Philippines' 200-nautical mile EEZ.