• Joint exploration was an option between China and the Philippines before incidents at Ayungin Shoal
  • The Philippines briefly explored Recto Bank last year
  • Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and China all have drilling projects in the disputed waters

The Philippines is reportedly the only Asian claimant within China's nine-dash line claim in the South China Sea to not have oil and gas exploration projects in the disputed territory this year. The Philippines has suspended its energy exploration projects in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) since 2014.

Claimants in Beijing's nine-dash line claim in the disputed waters of the South China Sea have all moved forward with new offshore projects in the area this year, the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI) said in a report released this week.

"The Philippines continues to suspend all oil and gas projects in disputed waters of the South China Sea, which has been policy since 2014. Manila briefly permitted exploration at Reed Bank last spring, but quickly shut it down amid challenges from the China Coast Guard," the AMTI noted.

While the Philippine government has yet to resume explorative projects at Reed Bank, some Filipino operators have settled for redeveloping the Cadlao oil field. However, the said territory is outside China's nine-dash line claim.

There have been talks about a possible joint exploration project between China and the Philippines, but tensions between their governments have heightened over the last three months due to incidents in the West Philippine Sea, specifically at Ayungin Shoal.

Within the nine-dash line claim, China has continuously started exploration projects, including a new gas field project in the Yinggehai Basin, which is located off the coast of northern Vietnam. Another gas field project started off of Lingshui, in an area disputed by both Vietnam and China, in January.

As for Vietnam, the country's Sao Vang-Dai Nguyet gas and condensate development project in the Nam Con Son Basin continues to operate under Japan's Idemitsu Kosan. The basin is also within China's nine-dash line claim.

Vietnam has other partnership energy development projects with Indian and American companies within the disputed territory as well, as per AMTI data.

Also in January, Indonesia approved a $3 billion project to develop the Tuna gas field, which is located at the northern edge of the country's maritime territorial claims. The said area is within the southern edge of China's nine-dash line claim.

Finally, Malaysia continues to drill and make discoveries of hydrocarbons in the territorial waters. Over the past months, the country has discovered gas in block SK320 and found hydrocarbons at exploratory wells located in blocks SK306 and SK410B.

In 2020, SK410B became the site of confrontations between the CCG and the Royal Malaysian Navy over exploratory drilling activities.

The Philippines, on the other hand, has yet to revive its exploration activities at Reed Bank.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) earlier said that on Feb. 9, it intercepted a fishing boat with a Vietnamese flag at Reed Bank, which the Philippines calls Recto Bank, according to the At the time, the PCG said the Vietnamese fishing vessel left the area without untoward incidents.

Philippine sea
Representative image of a Philippine fishing boat. Jayson Mansueto/Pixabay