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Aquino to raise joint South China Sea oil probe to ASEAN

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President Benigno Aquino III on Monday said he may raise the issue of a joint exploration in the South China sea with members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) when he visits Indonesia this week.

“I will be exploring the possibility,” the President said when asked by reporters about his view on a common Asean stand on exploration in the South China sea.

“Look at Reed Bank, the discovery there was sometime in the mid-‘70s. Within 2011, nobody is utilizing it. And it can be utilized now,” he said. “But again we are not able to exploit it because of the disputes. Maybe a joint exploration could be good and in the end we can resolve it.”

But the Chief Executive clarified that it was just an idea adding he hasn’t even talked about it with other members of his government. At the same time, he noted that the concept is how to accelerate the pace where every claimant country could benefit from the resources in the area.

Asked about the possibility of sending Henry Bensurto, the secretary general of the Commission on Maritime and Oceanic Affairs Secretariat to China to fix a recent misunderstanding over an alleged Chinese incursion in the Reed Bank basin, the President said he couldn’t give much detail.

The government has chosen to keep its silence on the issue due to its sensitive nature and other diplomatic concerns with China particularly the Filipino drug convicts who are about to be executed there.

“I cannot go into specific details. As you know, we don’t want to…example, those in the death row, we were advised they will be executed. We go there, we negotiate, we ask for consideration, they granted it at least for the stay of the execution. We understand it’s not a common practice,” the President said.

The Philippines has already asked China to explain the incursion of two Chinese patrol boats in west Palawan area. The patrols reportedly ordered an oil exploration vessel to leave the place. Philippine officials insisted that the area was well within the Philippine territory. There was no report of armed confrontation and the oil survey crew was unharmed

The Reed Bank basin covers about 71,000 sq km and is located about 250 km west of Palawan. Hydrocarbon occurrences recorded in the basin consist of gas as shown from clastic reservoirs.

Last month, the Philippine government gave a foreign gas exploration company the go-ahead to conduct studies in the Reed Bank basin near the disputed Kalayaan Islands off South China Sea. (PCOO/PIA9-BST)




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