Manila asserts ‘economic rights’ in lifting South China Sea ban

Manila asserts ‘economic rights’ in lifting South China Sea ban

The Philippines’ decision to allow its contractors to resume drilling for energy resources in disputed areas of the South China Sea is based on the country’s “economic rights,” Manila’s energy minister said on Friday.

Secretary Alfonso Cusi said he expects Beijing to respect Manila’s “unilateral” decision and insisted the move will not affect a possible joint resource exploration by the two countries in the South China Sea, talks for which have been hampered by the pandemic.

“We trust China will respect our sovereign decision. I’m sure they also want us to be successful economically,” Cusi said in a virtual news conference.

President Rodrigo Duterte approved the lifting of a six-year moratorium on oil and gas exploration in disputed waters on Thursday. The news sent shares of PXP Energy, a Manila-listed service contract holder, surging by 50% the following day.

Lifting the ban, Cusi said, could help address the Philippines’ energy security and boost economic activity amid a recession. The energy department expects $25 million in initial investments once drilling activities resume and is processing more service contract applications.

Beijing, which claims nearly the entire South China Sea, has yet to publicly react to Manila’s move.