South China Sea tensions mount as Manila prepares to drill for oil

(BGF) –  Joshep Santolan for the World Socialist Web site reported that tension escalated in the South China Sea after the Philippines government announced that it would deploy the oil exploration plan in the waters which are also claimed by China. Vietnam also alleged Chinese naval forces to assault 11 Vietnamese fishermen as they sought shelter from a storm in the Paracel Islands. China rejected Manila’s right to explore oil and gas and denied Hanoi’s allegation.

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South China Sea tensions mount as Manila prepares to drill for oil

March 02, 2012 | By Joseph Santolan

Tense rivalry in the South China Sea escalated over the past week. The Philippine government announced it would go ahead with plans to open several quadrants of the disputed waters for oil drilling in coming months. The Vietnamese government denounced the Chinese naval forces for conducting “an assault” on 11 fishermen seeking refuge in a storm. The Chinese foreign ministry rejected Manila’s right to drill for oil and denied Hanoi’s allegations.

Behind all these tensions lie the machinations of Washington, which has ratcheted up its pressure on Beijing militarily, economically and politically throughout the region.

On Tuesday Jose Almendras, Secretary of the Philippine Department of Energy, announced that the Philippines had invited major foreign oil corporations to invest an estimated $US7.5 billion in exploration. Two of the proposed sites are in the vicinity of the Reed Bank and are also claimed by China. According to the Wall Street Journal, seismic data indicates that there are 3.4 trillion cubic feet of gas-in-place and 440 million barrels of oil in the area.

The Reed Bank was the site of a serious confrontation between China and the Philippines in March 2011, when an oil exploration ship operated by Forum Energy was confronted by two Chinese gunboats. The Philippine government dispatched a bomber and light aircraft to respond. This confrontation has been used repeatedly by Pentagon officials and the US State Department as a justification for an increased US military presence in the region.

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