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US seeks peaceful, transparent resolution of Spratlys issue

March 09, 2008 19:42:00
Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines--Despite claims that it was displeased over the three-country Spratlys oil exploration deal, the United States is keeping its hands off the controversial Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) and wished only for claimant countries to resolve the continuing dispute over the South China Sea territory peacefully.

Quoting US Ambassador Kristie Kenney, Embassy deputy press attaché Karen Schinnerer said via text message on Sunday: "The issue of the Spratlys has to be resolved among the countries that have claims. We hope it will be resolved peacefully and transparently."

Asked to comment on the reported US displeasure over the 2005 agreement signed by Philippines, China and Vietnam, Schinnerer cited the same statement and reiterated that "the US is not a claimant."

The Philippines signed the JMSU with China in 2004 to jointly explore parts of the disputed Spratlys for oil and gas reserves. Claimant country Vietnam later inked the deal in light of its objections over the bilateral agreement.

Former Senator Franklin Drilon called the deal a "sellout" as it was purportedly signed in exchange for millions of dollars in Chinese investment and loan grants to the Philippines.

He later revealed that the US was not pleased about the deal because the Philippines was "part of the proxy war between the US and China over dominance in the region" and the agreement showed that the country was "warming up" to the latter.

Drilon added that he got this feedback from Philippine Ambassador to Japan Domingo Siazon, who allegedly told him that the "US was pissed off" by the Spratlys deal.

Siazon denied that the conversation ever took place.

Administration officials, including the foreign office itself, said the deal did not violate the country's sovereignty and was simply for scientific research, with no binding effect on the country’s territorial claims or its commercial and trading interests.

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