Manila-Beijing ties reach golden age, says Arroyo

President Gloria Arroyo said that the relations between China and the Philippines have reached a “golden age”. She added that her five-day visit to China would include talks on their relations with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

As chairman of the leaders’ summit of Asean in Cebu, in central Philippines in December, Arroyo scheduled on October 30, a meeting in China’s Nanning to commemorate the 15th year of Asean and China’s relations.

China, together with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the United States, and the European Union are Asean’s dialogue partners.

In November 2002, China and Asean signed a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC), the first formal multilateral agreement to handle the territorial disputes on the Spratly Archipelago off South China Sea.

Asean and China affirmed respect for freedom of navigation and over flights on the area. They also committed to a peaceful resolution of territorial and jurisdictional disputes on Spratly Islands.

Self-restraint

They also pledged to exercise self-restraint and agreed to undertake cooperative and economic developments in the said area.

The Philippines has proposed to other claimants for a joint maritime seismic undertaking (JMSU) in September 2004, and this was signed by the state owned Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) and the China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC).

The accord provides for the parties to engage in joint research of petroleum resources in a certain area of the South China Sea for pre-exploration activity.

In March 2005, Vietnam became a part of the project, and the Vietnam Oil and Gas Corporation (PETROVIETNAM) signed the JMSU.

Claim

China, Taiwan, and Vietnam claim all of Spratly Archipelago, while Malaysia, Philippines and Brunei claim some parts of it. All of the claimants, except for Brunei have military arsenals on the islands that they have respectively claimed.

Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore, and Thailand have not claimed any part of the Spratly Archipelago.

The contentious Spratly Archipelago is believed to sit on South China Sea’s mineral reserves including oil reserves estimate from a low of 2 billion barrels to a high of 225 million barrels. The perfecting of the Asean-China code of conduct is expected to be signed, said Benito Valeriano, director on Asean affairs.

Explaining this, Ailen San Pablo Baviera, dean of the Asian Centre of the University of the Philippines, told Gulf News that the Philippines should specify that China and Asean should firm up multilateral development agreements especially on oil exploration, and specify how involved parties would benefit from oil finds.

By Barbara Mae Dacanay

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