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China, Philippines Discuss Joint Oil Exploration

VOA News 31 Aug 2003, 15:26 UTC

China and the Philippines have discussed possible joint exploration for petroleum in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea.

The speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives, Jose de Venecia, says the chairman of China's parliament, Wu Bannguo, made the proposal Sunday during talks in Manila. The lawmakers spoke to reporters after their meeting, but neither provided details.

Long a flash point for regional tensions, the Spratly Islands area is thought to be rich in oil, but its commercial potential has not been confirmed. The archipelago is claimed wholly or in part by China, the Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. Mr. de Venecia said an exploration program ultimately involving all claimants could lead to a diplomatic breakthrough.

Mr. Wu is in Manila to address a conference of the Association of Asian Parliaments for Peace as its outgoing president. He will pass leadership to Mr. de Venecia.

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