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NEWS UPDATES Asean Affairs        13  June 2011

Philippines continues exploration in Spratlys

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Philippines will continue its oil and gas exploration activities in the Palawan Sea despite rising tension with China over the disputed oil-rich Spratlys Group of Islands, the Department of Energy said.

Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almedras said that service contracts for oil and gas exploration have been awarded in the past, and have not been questioned. He clarified that the Philippines has no exploration activities within the Spratlys.

For decades, mainland China and the Philippines, as well as Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, Brunei and Vietnam have made overlapping seabed claims in the South China Sea.

Claims to the Spratly islands are especially important because if legal claims supporting a specific country’s ownership are recognized, that country’s exclusive economic zone could extend up to 200 nautical miles from the shore of each islet under its control, giving it sole jurisdiction over natural resource extraction in that area.

Key natural resources in the disputed areas include oil and gas, as well as fish. The islands also lie close to some of the world’s most vital commercial shipping lanes.

Almendras said that escalating prices of fuel have prompted claimants to “aggressively” look for indigenous sources of fuel in the disputed Spratlys Islands – a group of more than 100 reefs, islets and atolls scattered over the South China Sea.

But the energy chief stressed that it is up to Malacanang and the Department of Foreign Affairs to answer questions on the territorial dispute.

The Philippine Coast Guard recently deployed three patrol ships to protect a Philippine government oil survey vessel operating roughly 80 nautical miles off Palawan in the South China Sea that was reportedly harassed by two Chinese civil maritime patrol ships.

Earlier, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said the Palace still hopes the row would not come to the point that the Philippines will invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty with the US.

She said the terms of the MDT will allow the Aquino government to ask for military help in case a foreign invasion takes place.

Pamalakaya said Washington exploited and made use of the current political and military tension in Spratlys to compel President Aquino to shop for excess defense equipment in the US.


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ASEAN  ANALYSIS

This year in Thailand-what next?

AseanAffairs   04 January 2011
By David Swartzentruber      

It is commonplace in journalism to write two types of articles at the transition point between the year that has passed and the New Year. As this writer qualifies as an “old hand” in observing Thailand with a track record dating back 14 years, it is time take a shot at what may unfold in Thailand in 2011.

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