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Joint Oil Survey Is Set for Spratlys


Associated Press

March 15, 2005

MANILA, Philippines -- The national oil companies of the Philippines, China and Vietnam today signed an accord to conduct a joint seismic survey of the Spratly Islands, a disputed archipelago in the South China Sea.

The three-year survey will provide clues for the potential oil and gas reserves in the area, which is claimed by China, Vietnam, Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia, said Eduardo Manalac, president of state-owned Philippine National Oil Co.

He described the agreement as a purely commercial transaction that has no reference to political claims or territorial rights.

A spokesman for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo hailed the deal as a model-setting approach on the South China Sea issue and on forging partnerships on energy security.

With this undertaking, we hope to see the South China Sea evolve into a sea that unites rather than divides, Ignacio Bunye said in a statement.

Mr. Manalac said the three companies, which also include China National Offshore Oil Corp., or CNOOC, and Vietnam Oil & Gas Corp., were still working out the budget for the pre-exploration activity, but that it would be shared equally.

China and Vietnam, which both have built permanent structures in the Spratlys, clashed over the island group in 1988 and 1992. Other countries have had skirmishes. Two years ago, China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations adopted a nonbinding declaration that forbids construction on uninhabited islands to prevent territorial disputes from escalating.

Last week, the Philippines and Vietnam announced plans to conduct scientific research in the South China Sea in April. The move was criticized by the Chinese Foreign Ministry, which called on all claimants to follow the principles enshrined in the declaration on the South China Sea.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press