Energy ministers from the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) group will discuss climate change and business opportunities at a meeting in the Philippines next month but not the South China Sea, Philippine officials said on Monday. China claims most of the potentially energy-rich South China Sea, through which $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims. The Philippines has filed a case with an international arbitration tribunal over rival claims in the South China Sea but China has rejected the proceeding and says disputes must be handled bilaterally. China is a member of APEC. Zenaida Monsada, officer-in-charge at the Philippine Department of Energy, said the South China Sea issue was not in an APEC energy ministers’ declaration that Manila has drafted and which would be tackled during the Oct. 12-14 conference on the resort island of Cebu.
“It’s not on the table because the contending parties will be there. It’s a sensitive issue, it’s not purely an energy issue,” she said at a press briefing, referring to the territorial disputes. “The target is to have everybody come and sit down and talk on issues,” Monsada said.
The draft Cebu declaration focuses on pushing for an energy resilient APEC economy, with sub-themes such as improving energy trade and investments, promoting clean energy and building climate change-proof energy infrastructure, Energy Undersecretary Loreta Ayson said. APEC members include the United States, China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and Canada, and together account for 60 percent of world energy demand.
“We see energy resiliency very vital to APEC economies considering the natural and man-made disasters that the different countries in the APEC region have experienced in the past,” Ayson said. Territorial disputes could be discussed in Cebu but not during the ministerial meeting, she said.