Philippines Plans Offshore Exploration in South China Sea

Silhouette of a statue and mountains in the Philippines' South China Sea
Updated Published

President Ferdinan Marcos Jr of the Philippines stated that the country is actively addressing “exploration issues” in the South China Sea to pave the way for new energy exploration initiatives in the resource-heavy waterway.In an interview with the Japanese media on Saturday, Marcos emphasized that tensions in the South China Sea have escalated in recent months rather than subsidizing. He cautioned against China's growing assertiveness, characterizing it as a substantial challenge for Asian neighbors in the region. 

The Philippines and China have resumed discussions on the collaborative exploration of oil and gas resources in the South China Sea, which is a region marked by long standing disputes between the two countries over sovereign rights for the development of natural resources. 

In a press release from his office, President Marcos acknowledged limited progress in the talks during a Tokyo summit involving Japan and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Despite ongoing discussions, “very little progress” has been made, he said. 

“We are still at a deadlock right now,” Marcos stated, asserting the Philippines' right to exploit energy reserves in the portion of the South China Sea situated within its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).  This region was referred to as the West Philippine Sea by Manila. 

This stance aligns with the Philippines’ objective of reducing reliance on fossil fuels and coal, highlighting a transition to liquified natural gas. 

All attempts to establish a legally viable framework for collaborative energy exploration have faced repeated setbacks, with the previous administration discontinuing talks in June of the preceding year. This was cited to be caused by constitutional constraints and sovereignty issues. 

A week ago, Manila and Beijing exchanged allegations following a collision between their vessels near a disputed shoal in the South China Sea, contributing to escalating territorial claims in this crucial waterway.

Apart from the Philippines, other ASEAN members, including Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei, assert territorial claims in regions of the South China Sea contested by China, which lays claim to almost the entire sea—a conduit for over $3 trillion in annual ship-borne commerce.

In 2016, The Permanent Court of Arbitration subjugated that China's claims had no legal basis, a decision supported by the United States but rejected by Beijing.

President Marcos expressed concern about the increasing tensions in the region, emphasizing the imperative need for a peaceful resolution and highlighting the need for "new solutions" to give discourse to the challenges posed by China. He has pledged to defend his country's rights in the South China Sea, characterizing the recent collision as a "serious