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Philippines to seek more oil in South China Sea
by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) June 29, 2011

The Philippines said Wednesday it would grant more permits to private firms to search for oil and natural gas in the South China Sea, where it has a simmering territorial dispute with China.

A total of 15 exploration contracts would be offered Thursday for mostly offshore prospects off the western island of Palawan, the energy department said in a statement.

The government ministry did not give details beyond saying the blocks would include East Palawan -- an undersea section of the South China Sea -- as well as Northwest Palawan and the Sulu Sea basins.

"The contracting round is expected to attract investments in oil and gas exploration activities which will contribute to the realisation of the country's energy self-sufficiency level target of 60 percent," it said.

"Independent and large-scale international exploration companies... have already expressed their interest to tender their bid in the various blocks," it added.

The scheduled tenders come amid increasingly assertive insistence by China on its territorial claims over most of the South China Sea.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino this month called for US help in containing China's ambitions in the area, saying his country was too weak to stand up to Beijing alone.

The plea was issued after his government accused China of inciting at least seven recent incidents in the disputed waters, including one in which a Chinese vessel allegedly opened fire on Filipino fishermen.

The Philippines has also alleged that a Chinese patrol ship shadowed a Philippine oil exploration vessel in the area.

China and the Philippines have overlapping claims over the Spratly archipelago, a reputedly resources-rich South China Sea chain, as well as over nearby shoals, reefs and banks and their adjacent waters.

The Spratlys are also claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam.

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Taiwan boat aborts protest near disputed islands
Taipei (AFP) June 29, 2011 - Taiwanese anti-Japan activists who sailed near a disputed island chain in the East China Sea were forced to turn back after being confronted by Japanese patrol boats, officials in Taipei said Wednesday.

The fishing boat sailed late Tuesday towards the group of islands -- called Senkaku by Japan and Diaoyu by China -- but were barred on approach by the patrol boats on Wednesday morning, said Taiwan's coastguard.

The boat, escorted by two Taiwanese patrol vessels, turned around after a brief standoff with the Japanese side and was expected to return to a port in northern Taiwan around midnight, the coastguard and local media said.

It was the latest of a number of incidents in recent years involving a standoff between Japanese patrol craft and Taiwanese activists trying to sail to the disputed area to press Taipei's claim.

China, Japan and Taiwan all claim the island chain which lies near rich energy deposits.

Last year, a Taiwanese protest boat was forced to abort its mission by Japan amid a diplomatic row between China and Japan after a Chinese trawler collided with two Japanese coastguard vessels.

Tokyo officially recognises Beijing rather than Taipei but maintains close trade ties with the island.

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Poland discovers major new natural gas deposit
Warsaw (AFP) June 28, 2011
Gas prospectors in Poland have discovered new deposits estimated at 100 billion cubic metres which could double the country's domestic resources, Economy Minister Waldemar Pawlak said Tuesday. "If the estimates of experts are confirmed, the deposits in the region of Kutno would double our reserves," Pawlak said in a statement, referring to a part of central Poland. Poland's proven natura ... read more

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