PH dismisses new China protest over drilling in Recto Bank
MANILA, Philippines – Maintaining that Recto (Reed) Bank is a territory of the Philippines, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin dismissed China's protest against the extension of Forum Energy's permit to conduct oil drilling activities there.
Gazmin gave an assurance that the British company led by businessman Manuel V Pangilinan will be given protection. The Recto bank is located in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), which China claims almost in its entirety.
"Within our capability, we will be able to extend all the necessary protection for them," Gazmin told reporters on Monday, July 21.
China last week, July 11, hit the Philippines over the extension of the permit. China said the permit is "illegal and invalid" because its permission was not sought. (READ: China hits Philippines over extended oil drilling)
"'Yung magpapaalam sa kanila, ibig sabihin sa kanila yung area. E maliwanang namang sa atin yung area. Ngayon, inaantay na lang natin yung decision ng arbitral court para malaman natin kung sino ang may marine entitlement in this area. Malalaman natin," Gazmin told reporters.
(If we ask them for permission, it means the area belongs to them. But it's clear that it is ours. Now, we are just waiting for the decision of the arbitral court to determine which country has marine entitlement in this area. We will know.)
The new permit to Forum Energy grants the extension of the operations to the second sub-phase of Service Contract 72 (SC72). In its statement, Forum Energy added that the deadline to complete the second sub-phase, which involves the drilling of two appraisal wells, “has now been extended by one year to August 15, 2016.”
Forum Energy conducts its drilling activities in the contested Recto (Reed) Bank in the West Philippine Sea.
SC72 covers an 8,800-square-kilometer area – which, as previously revealed by Forum Energy consultant Weatherford Petroleum, possibly contains as much as 16.6 trillion cubic feet of gas and 416 million barrels of oil.
In January 2013, the Philippine government already extended Forum Energy's permit to August 14, 2015.
The Philippine government awarded SC72 to Forum Energy in 2010 to help assert the Southeast Asian country's sovereign rights over parts of the South China Sea, claimed by the Philippines as the West Philippine Sea.
The Philippines previously accused Chinese vessels of harassing a Philex-contracted exploration vessel at Recto Bank in 2011.
Despite this, Pangilinan earlier said Forum Energy was negotiating with the state-run China National Offshore Oil Corp for the joint exploration of Recto Bank.
His only condition, Pangilinan said, was for CNOOC to respect the Philippines' rights over Recto Bank.
Philippine President Benigno Aquino III has said he is willing to jointly develop Recto Bank as long as the Philippine claim is respected. – with reports from Paterno Esmaquel II/Rappler.com