Wed, May 23, 2012
World > Asia-Pacific > South China Sea dispute

Manila driven by pursuit of oil, unemployment

2012-05-23 00:17:39 GMT2012-05-23 08:17:39(Beijing Time)  China Daily

The pursuit of oil, rising jobless rates and the need to cover up domestic public fury are behind Manila's recent territorial claims and its drive for oil drilling in the South China Sea, experts said.

Tensions have been flaring up between Beijing and Manila amid an impasse on China's Huangyan Island as the Philippine government laid a groundless claim over the island and sent a gunboat in early April to harass Chinese fishermen within China's territorial waters off the island.

Media in Manila on Tuesday questioned attempts by some Philippine companies to speed up the joint development of oil and gas in the South China Sea, claiming that the so-called "sovereignty" issue is more important than business interests.

Beijing warned that any unilateral development by the Philippine side will violate China's rights and interests, according to Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei, who also urged Manila to show sincerity.

However, the looming fluctuations triggered by Manila in the South China Sea are, to some extent, showing the Philippines' need for energy, said Chen Qinghong, a researcher on Philippine studies with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

"The Philippine economy depends heavily on energy supplies from abroad, and rising oil prices are also prompting major Philippine oil producers to seek more deposits from the waters nearby," said Chen.

The oilfield at Liyue Bank in the South China Sea could hold nearly twice as much gas as the Philippines' largest known deposits, Philex Petroleum said last month.

Some prominent Philippine figures are believed to be connected to the oil companies, and the government has been using the profits from oil for arms purchases, analysts said.

The South China Sea, as the deepest and largest sea of China, boasts abundant natural resources, including 23 to 30 billion tons of oil resources and around 16 trillion cubic meters of natural gas deposit.

In another development, a survey result released on Monday showed that the Philippine jobless rate in the first quarter hit a record high, and President Benigno Aquino is believed to be facing mounting pressure from the public.

The number of jobless adults in the Philippines increased during the first quarter of this year, reaching 34.4 percent, according to a recent survey released by local research institute Social Weather Stations.

It is 10 points higher than the 24 percent recorded in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Yang Baoyun, a professor of Southeast Asia studies at Peking University, said that Aquino has been haunted by the job figures since taking office in June 2010.

"Given the current overall economic situation in the Philippines, Aquino is now having a hard time fulfilling his promises to voters, not to mention the domestic dissatisfaction about corruption and the rebels in the south," said Yang.

Public satisfaction with the performance of the president has also slipped from a "very good" net score of plus-56 in December to a "good" net score of plus-46 in March, according to another recent survey by the institute.



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