MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang asked China not to undertake actions that will raise tensions in the South China Sea, following reports that China is inviting bids on oil blocks in disputed territory.
“Well, first of all, we’re not sure what area specifically China plans to bid out. So if they are in areas that are disputed like the Kalayaan Group of Islands where there other claimants like the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, and then Taiwan and Vietnam, then I understand that the Code of Conduct while it’s not binding, the spirit of it is that countries will not take any efforts to increase tensions," Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) Secretary Ricky Carandang said.
He added: "And so we would remind our friends not just China that, in the spirit of the Code of Conduct, it might be better not to take actions that would raise tensions."
Carandang stressed there should be no issue in the Philippines’ inviting bids for oil exploration Tuesday, saying that the service areas are within Philippine territory.
“We are bidding out areas for exploration within Philippine territory. This is not part of what is generally considered disputed territory. Hindi po ito kasama ng Spratlys, hindi po ito kasama ng Kalayaan Islands. This is part of Philippine territory so we don’t see any problem with that,” he said.
He said that while the contracts contain “no explicit security guarantee,” the Department of Energy, the Philippine Coast Guard, and the Navy will ensure that there are regular patrols to protect investors.
“We will exercise our right as a sovereign country to bid out licenses. And if those people who have licenses need protection, we will provide to the best of our ability,” Carandang said.
Asked if the Philippines is open to undertaking a joint exploration of disputed territory with other claimant countries, Carandang said that while the government is open to the idea, a binding code of conduct would first have to be agreed upon by the claimant countries.
Meantime, he said that efforts are still underway to achieve a “peaceful, legal and diplomatic” resolution to the territorial dispute.