In 2005 Pres. Gloria Arroyo signed a Joint Oil Exploration Deal with China for West Philippine Sea

Philippines and Vietnam signed Agreement on South China Sea Cooperation

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On March 14, 2005, representatives of the national oil companies of China, the Philippines, and Vietnam signed the Tripartite Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking Agreement on the South China Sea in Manila.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo met with delegates from three countries and spoke positively about the historical significance of the Convention.

She said that it will open new vistas for exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons in the South China Sea and that the Agreement is a manifestation of the political commitment of her government to promote cooperation among nations in the region. Ambassador Wu said that the Agreement was a significant step forward in the peaceful resolution of maritime issues in the South China Sea. 

He added that it will provide an opportunity for Vietnam to explore hydrocarbons in areas that were previously considered as “Chinese territorial waters”. Philippine Foreign Secretary said that the Agreement is a landmark event in the history of the relations between the Philippines and China, Vietnam, and the rest of the world. The Agreement area is one of the nine groups of exclusive economic zones (EEZs) which China claims in the South China Sea. The EEZ of Vietnam extends to the continental shelf of the Philippines and vice versa.

Evidently, the Agreement was made possible by the fact that there are overlapping claims of sovereignty over various areas in the South China Sea. After the signing, the Chinese Minister of Energy Zhang Guohong said that the Tripartite Agreement on Marine Seismic Undertaking (MSU) will provide a legal basis for joint exploration for oil and gas in the South China Sea. However, this statement has created some confusion in the minds of many people who are not familiar with international law. 

It is difficult to have overlapping claims of sovereignty over land which is covered by water. It does not matter how “peaceful” the overlapping claims of sovereignty are, they still cause problems for the countries which do not have a clear title to the areas concerned. For example, the Philippines claims that Arrangement 2 of the Spratlys lies within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ). But the Chinese claim that most of the same areas are within their EEZ.

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