MVP on Recto Bank: We're talking only to CNOOC
MANILA, Philippines - Other foreign firms have approached Forum Energy Plc for the joint exploration of Recto Bank, but the Manuel V. Pangilinan-led oil and gas company is negotiating only with China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC).
At the sidelines of the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP) conference on Thursday, January 17, Pangilinan said it would be for the best interest of Forum Energy and China government-owned CNOOC to forge a compromise on Recto Bank.
“I think at the moment, the discussion would have to center between the two of us. We don't want to be talking to anyone apart from CNOOC at this stage. We want to make that clear. People have expressed interest from other parts of the world, I said let's focus on our talks with CNOOC,” Pangilinan said.
The Philippines and China are claiming sovereignty over the South China Sea (also West Philippine Sea), which includes Recto Bank.
Recto Bank is covered by the oil and gas exploration contract awarded by the Philippine government—Service Contract 72—where Forum Energy has a 70% stake. Forum Energy is 64.45% owned by Panglinan-led Philex Petroleum Corp.
“This commercial venture (Recto bank) is caught up in the geopolitics of the situation. It is caught up as well in the policy issues of several governments, China and the United States,” said Pangilinan.
Talks between Forum Energy and CNOOC will begin again this year. Pangilinan couldn't say if a compromise would be reached within the year, and if a third party operator would be allowed to join.
“If they're (CNOOC) agreeable to a third party operator, then so be it,” he said.
Extension of work program
Forum Energy recently asked the Department of Energy if it could extend its work program at Recto Bank.
The company was supposed to conduct geotechnical investigation that would include surface exploration of the site in October, but was unable to get the required approval from the government due to diplomatic issues with China.
“We’ve asked for an extension. The deadline for the phase 1, or phase sub 1, is August 2013. We won’t make it so we asked for an extension," Pangilinan said.
Forum Energy's work program calls for the drilling of two exploratory wells between now and August 2013. Pangilinan said drilling activities would not happen this year because of the lack of vital studies to determine the viability of the project.
“I would say unlikely for the drilling to happen this year given that the weather window is March to April and it takes awhile to mobilize. We need a survey first on site to determine the sea basin for stability for an oil rig. We haven’t done that yet,” he explained.
A survey earlier revealed SC 72 contains prospective resources of as much as 16.6 trillion cubic feet of gas, and 416 million barrels of oil. –Cai Ordinario, Rappler.com