By Mei Jingya, Sina English
The Philippines and Vietnam have been venturing out to draw others into the territorial disputes with China.
The Philippines on July 31 officially accepted bids for 3 oil and gas blocks, two of which fall within China’s nine-dash map of the South China Sea. Manila received four bids from six companies in total, even if none of them is from major oil companies.
Local Media reported that the 3 blocks, area 3 (600,000 hectares), area 4 (616,000 hectares) and area 5 (424,000 hectares), are among the 15 blocks that the Department of Energy planned to offer to foreign companies last June in the 4th Philippine Energy Contracting Round.
Of the six companies that submitted bids for areas 3, 4 and 5, five are local firms and only one is foreign.
British firm Pitkin Petroleum Plc. and Philodrill Corp., the only foreign company, made a joint bid on Area 5 with Philodrill Corp. a local company. Major oil companies all shunned the deal.
The Daily Inquirer said the Philippine Department of Energy will review these bids in the next 100 days and then President Aquino will sign service contracts to successful bidders, granting them rights to explore oil and gas in the area.
As early as on July 13, when the Philippines first announced the tender opening, Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement declaring China’s indisputable sovereignty over Nansha Islands and surrounding waters in the South China Sea.
China has since lodged several representations with Manila on the bidding. Beijing says any company’s drilling operation without the Chinese government’s approval in Chinese waters is illegal.
Last month, in defiance of China’s objection, Vietnam decided to extend the contract for exploration in a crucial oil block in South China Sea to an Indian company with ‘favorable conditions’, attempting to hold on to Indian presence in the resource-rich region. The Indian state-controlled oil firm later took the Vietnam’s bait after consultation with top government officials.
The Vietnam-Indian deal was ‘hailed as a victory’ by local media for its guts to stand up to China and remain a serious contender in the South China Sea.
Relations between claimant countries of South China Sea have soured in 2012, as the Philippines, Vietnam both eye potentially resource-rich islets and reefs to spur their economic growth.
And through such bidding farces, they openly joined hands trying to drag foreign countries or companies coveting the region into their disputes with China.
China has made its stance very clear: no outside intervention is welcome. Let’s just hope those concerned parties know how to end the game.