Lebanon and Israel, two countries technically at war, signed several days ago a historic agreement settling their years-long maritime border conflict involving oil and gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea.
The accord will raise huge revenues and ease tensions not only between the two countries but in the region.
Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said it “will strengthen Israel’s security, inject billions into Israel’s economy, and ensure stability of our northern border.”
It will also contribute greatly to Lebanon’s economic recovery and political stability as the country has been beset with financial difficulties for three years now.
On the maritime disputes, the one that is causing grave concern is in the West Philippine Sea/South China
Sea, sparked by the raging disagreement and conflicting sovereignty claims.
But we have repeatedly pointed out that there is the potential for a peaceful settlement.
We had the privilege to officially propose in 2004-2005, then as speaker of the house, the three-nation Seismic Agreement officially signed and undertaken by Manila, Beijing and Hanoi. Its aim was to assess the area’s potential for oil/gas exploration and development preparatory to drilling and create the environment for peace and cooperation. Hydrocarbon specialists of the three countries pronounced the area’s prospects as “promising.”
We explained that the rival nations could convert the area from one of conflict into a zone of peace, friendship, cooperation, and development. We must find ways and means to jointly develop its oil/gas potential to help lessen our expensive common dependence on distant petroleum sources in the Persian/Arab Gulf of the Middle East.
Imagine the potential for peace in the heartland of the West Philippine Sea if we undertake a joint development of its resources.
From an area of conflict, it could be transformed into a landscape and seascape of small seaports, airports and oil pipelines. Fishing villages and small tourism townships could rapidly rise and the contested areas could become the untrammeled passage way for global shipping, carrying more than 50 percent of the sea freight of the world.
We have always pointed out that this is perhaps the most realistic, most common-sensical solution to the problem and which could be joined by Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and Taiwan; and could also be the same formula for the dangerous problem between China and Japan in the tiny isles in the Senkaku Straits or Diaoyu in the East China Sea.
A history of conflict avoidance and joint development involving rival nations abound, perhaps as a result of intelligent, creative, humble, and pragmatic diplomacy.
In the Norwegian Ekofisk oil field in the North Sea, which we visited when we were president of the Petroleum Association of the Philippines in the 1970s, the discovered oil in the sea goes even now to Norway and to Teeside, England and the natural gas goes to Germany.
The oil in the Caspian Sea countries is shared by Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan and others, because among them, there is demarcation and practical mutual understanding and goodwill.
The 2006 agreement between giant Australia and tiny East Timor share the hydrocarbons in the South Pacific in the waters just below Darwin and on the southeast side of Asia’s newest republic.
The 1989 deal between Malaysia and Thailand enabled them to jointly develop their disputed waters in the Gulf of Thailand.
The Guinea-Bissau and Senegal accord of 1993 helped the concerned countries develop their disputed areas.
The border conflicts in Asia are more explosive, seemingly more intractable – between India and Pakistan over Kashmir, between India and China in their common mountainous region, between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh, among others.
However, even as dangerous a dispute as one between Russia and China, which led the two countries involving hundreds of thousands of their troops poised to pounce on each other in the brink of war, did not explode into full-scale bloody confrontation because of prudence. The conflict was over a territory in the vicinity of the Ussuri (Wusuli) river in the eastern region of the then USSR, north of Vladivostok, in 1969.
The surprise 1992 border agreement between China and Russia rapidly resolved their territorial dispute in the Argun and Amur rivers, where China was granted control over Tarabahov Island (Yinlong Island) and about 50 percent of Bolshoy Ussuriysky Island (Heixiazi Island) near Khabarovsk.
Asia and the world must never forget one of the foremost leaders in Asian history, China’s “paramount leader” Deng Xiaoping and its President Yang Shangkun and the USSR’s President Boris Yeltsin for the classic Border Agreement between China and Russia that resolved what could have been an explosive and ruinous conflict between the two major powers, with Russia still supported by its satellite states at the time and both already wielding powerful weapons.
Indeed, the idea of “win-win cooperation,” of a pragmatic and intelligent sharing of areas and resources could help build a model for lessening tensions and solving conflicts, and avoiding the possibility of war in Asia’s manifold and dangerous flashpoints.
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2022-10-30 00: 05: 00