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Philippines To Explore Other Oil and Gas Areas amid China Tensions

The Philippines is looking to explore for oil and gas in areas other than the South China Sea where a territorial dispute with China has hindered exploration plans, the Philippine Energy Undersecretary Alessandro Sales told Bloomberg in an interview published on Wednesday.

“We are looking at the Sulu Sea area as the new exploration hot spot and there are companies now involved here,” Sales told Bloomberg.

The Philippines has been seeking to develop the Reed Bank area in the South China Sea, which hosts a stalled Philippine natural gas project, but the dispute with China has stalled any developments.

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% of the South China Sea, which has put it at odds with its neighbors.  

A court in The Hague in 2016 ruled against China’s claims and in favor of the Philippines. The ruling said that the Philippines had sovereign rights in its 200-mile exclusive economic zone to access offshore oil and gas resources, including in the Reed Bank. 

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.

While China and the Philippines resumed in early 2023 talks on joint exploration in the South China Sea, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr told Reuters in December that the countries were “still at a deadlock right now.”

With exploration in the South China Sea on hold, the Philippines contracted earlier this month Ratsio Gibraltar, a unit of Israeli firm Ratio Petroleum, to conduct a seismic survey in the SC76 area in the Philippines.

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Ratio Petroleum, which will explore the area within the “internal waters” of the Philippines, plans to send next month a vessel there to collect 3D seismic data, Sales told Bloomberg.

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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