MARITIME and academic experts from India have suggested that Manila and New Delhi explore possible joint oil and gas exploration offshore, possibly in the West Philippine Sea.
Fellows from the National Maritime Foundation (NMF) of India are in Manila to identify with their Philippine counterparts ways on improving maritime cooperation between both countries.
Non-government think tank Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute hosted the Track 2 forum in Manila. One of the suggestions for areas of cooperation during the forum was the conduct of joint oil and gas offshore exploration, similar to India’s arrangement with Vietnam.
Vietnam has allowed Indian oil firm ONGC Videsh to drill in the Block 128 off Vietnam in the South China Sea.
Wire reports said the Vietnam-India oil and gas exploration deal overlaps China’s nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea. However, Vietnamese Ambassador to Manila Hoang Huy Chung who was also present at the forum said the concession to India to drill and explore oil is within Vietnam’s “continental shelf” and not in the disputed South China Sea.
Commodore Debesh Lahiri, executive director of NMF and head of the Indian delegation, said there is an international body called International Seabed Alliance which identifies and controls areas where oil and gas exploration can be done.
“I don’t see any hurdles or problems between India and the Philippines cooperating [in] your EEZ [exclusive economic zone]. We can always reach out as friendly partner of the Philippines,” Commodore Lahiri said.
India and Vietnam, Ambassador Hoang said, have already established a comprehensive and strategic partnership.
The bilateral relationship between Manila and New Delhi has yet to reach that stage, though recently, foreign ministers of both countries committed to “expand and strengthen” their partnership to wide range of areas such as health, agriculture, digital economy, defense and security. During a Philippine delegation’s visit to India in June, both countries agreed to hold maritime dialogue and increase cooperation on hydrography.
“The Government of India wisely suggested that the Track 2 precede the Track 1 by several months, so that in preparing the agenda for the government level discussion, we can be guided by the discussions of those from other sectors, to ensure that the Track 1 will be responsive to the needs of our expanding relations,” DFA Assistant Secretary Maria Angela Ponce said in a prepared speech.
The Philippines has been holding maritime dialogues with Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam, Australia, the United States, United Kingdom and South Korea. Later this year, Manila will also hold a separate maritime dialogue with the European Union.
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