South China Sea crisis: Beijing defied by Philippines in power move as tensions rise



SOUTH CHINA SEA disputes between China and the Philippines are set to take another tense turn as Manila plans to seize control of oil and gas in the region despite Beijing fury.

PXP Energy Corporation in the Philippines has requested permission from the country’s Department of Energy to capitalise on the resource rich Malampaya gas facilities located in the South China Sea. However, Manila could also permit the company to exploit other gas prospects in the region, including the Sampaguita field located at Reed Bank, which lies in China’s controversial waters claim known as the Nine-Dash Line.

Malampaya fuels power plants with a combined capacity of 3000 megawatts, but resources in the region are expected to become increasingly scarce over the next 10 years, sparking urgency from competitors looking to capitalise on the economic opportunity presented by the area.

A PXP spokesman said: “The project intends to ensure energy security to the country from indigenous natural gas resources for the next 25 years and beyond, while bringing in significant revenues to the Philippine government.”

While gas fields in the area are claimed by China, the Philippines has long disputed President Xi Jinping’s audacious efforts in the South China Sea, alongside many other smaller nations such as Vietnam and Thailand.

Within the Nine-Dash Line the Spratly Islands also lie, and they form the heart of a complex dispute due to their location near coasts off Vietnam, the Philippines and Malaysia.

Manila has begun beefing up its defensive capabilities in recent months as a result of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s insistence on sending various vessels into Filipino waters.

National security adviser under President Rodrigo Duterte – Hermogenes Esperon – said: “Whatever we spend on defence should strengthen our position on developing our maritime domain especially the West Philippine Sea into what we call the blue economy.”

China also sees the economic potential in the waters and has therefore made audacious moves in pursuit of political, military and economic dominance in the region.

The Chinese government has history with the Philippines over the region. In 1994, China had a similar confrontation by asserting its ownership of Mischief Reef, which was inside the claimed EEZ of the Philippines.

In 2016, the Philippines won a case in the Permanent Court of Arbitration invalidating China’s claims to almost the entire stretch of sea. China does not recognise the ruling.

The tribunal in The Hague found that China had violated sovereign Filipino rights under the United Nations Convention on Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS).