The South China Sea offers a great power to those who controls it. That is why this issue never rest because of its potential and advantages in terms of economic growth. The area is 800,000 square kilometers (310,000 square miles) is semi-enclosed, with ninety percent of its circumference rimmed by land. The south China Sea is claimed by the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, and Thailand; the Indochinese countries of Cambodia and Vietnam; and People’s Republic of China (PRC or China) and Taiwan (The Republic of China). Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines claim some portion of the area. They base it on the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOS Convention). While China, Taiwan, and Vietnam claim the whole area because of its historical sovereignty over the islands.
These hundreds of islands, islets, cays, reefs, rocks, shoals, and banks, comprise four main archipelagos in the South China Sea: The Pratas, Macclesfield Bank, Paracels, and Spratlys. Eight states claim title to these South China Sea islands. Singapore and Malaysia dispute claims in the congested waters of Malacca and Singapore Strait. China, Taiwan, and Vietnam contest each other’s claims to sovereignty over the Paracel islands, a group of fifteen islets and several reefs and shoals scattered over a 200 kilometer area in the middle of the Gulf of Tonkin. Taiwan also contests China’s claims to Pratas Island and the Macclesfield Bank. As for Spratlys, six states assert claims: China, Taiwan, and Vietnam claim the entire archipelago, while the Philippines, Malaysia, and Brunei claim sovereignty over portions of the Spratlys. Except for Brunei, all the others have established a military presence in thr Spratlys (1).
There are three main reasons why this issue never put to rest
1) POTENTIAL OIL RESERVE
Many countries in this region have done an exploration in search for oil and other mineral deposits embedded in this vast area. In 1968, oil was discovered in the region. The Geology and Mineral Resources Ministry of the People's Republic of China (PRC) has estimated that the South China Sea (spec. Spratlys) holds oil and natural gas reserves of 17.7 billion tons (1.60 x 1010 kg), as compared to the 13 billion tons (1.17 x 1010 kg) hold by Kuwait, placing it as the fourth largest reserve bed in the world (2). As China becomes one of the world's top players, no wonder China is aggressive and persistent in claiming the South China Sea.
2) COMMERCIAL FISHING
Today, the world is experiencing food shortages because of its increasing population. Many nations are desperately find other alternatives just to meet the law of supply and demand. The South China Sea is considered as one of the world's most productive areas for commercial fishing. Many Asian fishermen flock to this area because of its abundance.
3) COMMERCIAL SHIPPING
The South China Sea is also considered as one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. Tanker traffic through the South China Sea is over three times greater than through Suez Canal and five times more than through the Panama Canal; twenty five percent of the world's crude oil passes through the South China Sea (3).
Why I bother to write this article? Simply because the mineral resources found in the South China Sea, specifically in the Spratlys islands (Kalayaan Group Islands) can help boost our economy and can pay our international debt.
If you are interested in this issue, you can search the net or research it on the Library.
UPDATE: The appropriate term of the area is WEST PHILIPPINE SEA. After this issue became hot topic, I notice the change of name.(08-01-12)