Petronas’ activities in South China Sea within Malaysia’s sovereignty rights

The Malaysian govt will send a protest note to China over the latter’s latest claims in the South China Sea 


CHINA’S recent claim towards South China Sea in its newly released Standard Map Edition 2023 which involves maritime line encroaching Sabah and Sarawak borders is not recognised by Malaysia. 

Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) president/group CEO Tan Sri Tengku Muhammad Taufik Tengku Aziz stated that the national oil company’s upstream activities are within the country’s sovereign territory. 

“Our activities upstream are within our country’s sovereign rights. Petronas will vigorously defend Malaysia’s rights to develop assets and energy reserves for its own energy security,” he told a media briefing last week when releasing the company’s first half of the year results. 

He added that the questions of the claim have been asked by all its group activities involving Kasawari gas field and Timi offshore field in Sarawak. However, he also noted with interest that China’s reach has grown beyond its claim. Recently, Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir stated that the government will send a protest note to China to express its displeasure regarding the claims. 

“This has been our practice when dealing with issues like this, and based on the statement issued by Wisma Putra on Aug 30, the next step includes sending a protest note,” he said to the media after the National Day 2023 celebration at Dataran Putrajaya on Aug 31. 

The protest note aims to express Malaysia’s disapproval towards the release of China Standard Map Edition 2023 by the Chinese Ministry of Natural Resources which includes the maritime territories of Malaysia near Sabah and Sarawak, Brunei, the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam, as well as various locations in India. 

Furthermore, the ministry also stated that the map holds no binding authority over Malaysia. 

“Malaysia also views the South China Sea issue as a complex and sensitive matter. 

“This issue needs to be handled peacefully and rationally through dialogues and discussions based on international laws, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS 1982),” the ministry said in a statement on Aug 30. 

The ministry assured that Malaysia remains committed to cooperating to ensure all parties implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea comprehensively and effectively. 

“Malaysia is also committed to the effective and substantive negotiations on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, with the goal of finalising the code as soon as possible,” the ministry further added. 

Pertaining to the South China Sea issue, the government previously stated that Malaysia consistently rejects any foreign party’s claims to sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction over maritime features or maritime areas based on the 1979 Malaysia New Map. 

The China Standard Map Edition 2023 was released by China’s Ministry of Natural Resources during the celebration of Surveying and Mapping Publicity Day and the National Mapping Awareness Publicity Week on Aug 28 in Deqing county, Zhejiang province. 

The standard map service system operates on the official website of the Ministry of Natural Resources, providing a series of standard maps for the public, the report quoted Zhang Wenhui, director of the Ministry’s Map Technology Review Centre. 

Mapping and geographic information play an important role in boosting the development of the nation, meeting the needs of all walks of life, supporting the management of natural resources and helping the construction of ecology and civilisation, chief planner of the ministry Wu Wenzhong said. 

Last Friday, the Philippines joined India and Malaysia in opposing the map. India has lodged a diplomatic protest with Beijing over the map which shows China claiming Indian territory in the Himalayas. 

Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims in the South China Sea, apart from Malaysia and the Philippines. 

  • This article first appeared in The Malaysian Reserve weekly print edition