Probe of China activity in WPS sought after oil search tool found
MANILA, Philippines — Congress should investigate China’s possible oil exploration in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) after Filipino fishermen recovered a device marked with Chinese characters and supposedly used in scientific research, said House Deputy Minority Leader Carlos Zarate.
Zarate, a representative of the party list Bayan Muna, on Wednesday also urged more patrols from the Philippine Coast Guard in the disputed Scarborough Shoal (also known a Panatag Shoal) off Zambales province and other areas in the WPS to immediately stop Chinese activities in the country’s territorial waters. “Aside from harvesting our giant clams and depleting our fisheries resources, this may be the primary reason why China’s coast guard and maritime militia bar Filipino fishermen from fishing in Scarborough Shoal. They may be mainly looking for oil in our EEZ (exclusive economic zone),” he said in a statement.
China, since 2012, has taken control of Scarborough Shoal, located 220 kilometers west of Zambales province, after a standoff with the Philippine Navy.
Absence of agreement
Zarate said that during the term of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, China used the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking to explore the country’s territory to their advantage, but with the absence of the agreement now, “it seems that they are doing so on the sly.”
In October 2020, President Duterte lifted the moratorium on oil exploration in the WPS, a move closer to implementing a joint exploration deal with China.
Fishermen from Infanta, Pangasinan, recently found a device reportedly used for oil exploration, which was later confirmed by an expert to be an ocean bottom seismometer or OBS, north of Scarborough Shoal. The device had been turned over to the Philippine Navy.
Zarate said Malacañang should not dismiss the issue and “once again protect China’s imperial interests.”
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