Thursday, 15 March 2012

Oil, Islands and the Buddhist Connection

With today's announcement of significant oil finds off the Irish coast also comes this story concerning the re-establishment of Buddhist temples on the potentially oil rich Spratly islands off Vietnam.

Vietnam will send six Buddhist monks to the disputed Spratly islands, a senior monk said Tuesday, ahead of the anniversary of a bloody battle with China over the hotly contested archipelago.

The monks will re-establish three temples abandoned by Vietnam in 1975 but have been recently renovated as part of the communist country's drive to assert its territorial claims over the potentially oil-rich islands.

"Our plan to go to Truong Sa (Spratly) Islands was approved earlier this month by Khanh Hoa province officials and we will depart as soon as the navy can take us there," Venerable Thich Giac Nghia told AFP.

The six monks, who all volunteered for the posting, intend to stay for up to a year on one of the larger islands following a request from its Vietnamese community -- mostly military staff and small-scale farmers and fishermen, he said.

"Most of the (Vietnamese) people there are Buddhist. We will try to improve their spiritual lives and encourage them to overcome daily hardships," he said.

The announcement came the day before the 24th anniversary of a March 14, 1988 Chinese attack on Gac Ma Island -- another of the larger Spratly Islands under Vietnamese military control -- which killed 64 Vietnamese soldiers.

Beijing says it has sovereignty over essentially all of the South China Sea, a key global trading route.

Its claim to the Spratlys competes directly with that of Vietnam, and the two countries also have a long-standing dispute over the Paracel island group.

Taiwan, Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines also claim all or part of the potentially oil-rich Spratlys.

All claimants except Brunei have troops based on the archipelago of more than 100 islets, reefs and atolls, which have a total land mass of less than five square kilometers (two square miles).

The Philippines and Vietnam have recently complained of increasing harassment of their fisherman by Chinese vessels in the region.

One-third of global seaborne trade passes through the South China Sea, which is also believed to encompass huge oil and gas reserves.

Northern Petroleum Plc has announced that they have been awarded the rights to carry out oil drilling opeations in two areas off the shores of the Isle of Wight.

Initially exploration will be carried out there, “to evaluate the oil and gas potential of the mapped well-defined prospect that extends from the Isle of Wight into the English Channel,” say the company.

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