MANILA -- Manuel V. Pangilinan said there are no immediate plans to initiate a new round of talks with state-owned China National Offshore Oil Co. Ltd. (CNOOC) to discuss exploratory works at the disputed Recto Bank off the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
“For the moment, there’s no plan. We are busy with some other matters,” Pangilinan said on Wednesday night.
The last communication between Philex Mining Corp.’s Forum Energy Plc. and CNOOC was held “a few months” ago, and “we have not heard from them since,” he added.
The Philippines and China are claiming sovereignty over the South China Sea, which includes Recto Bank.
Recto Bank is covered by the oil and gas exploration contract awarded by the Philippine government—Service Contract (SC) 72— where Forum Energy has a 70-percent stake. Forum Energy is 64.45 percent owned by Panglinan-led Philex Petroleum Corp.
For now, Pangilinan said communication between the two “has sort of just died down.”
Forum Energy, he reiterated, is keen to start drilling on the disputed territory “as soon as possible,” but security issues prevent it from doing so. Any agreements would also have to conform to sovereign laws.
Earlier, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla urged Pangilinan’s group to enter into commercial arrangements with CNOOC amid the dispute.
“I am asking the private sector to see if there can be [a] commercial arrangement among themselves while respecting the service contract terms of the Philippines,” Petilla had said.
The Department of Energy has granted Forum Energy an extension to August 2015 to complete the second subphase obligations of drilling wells on SC 72. The area is estimated to contain prospective resources of as much as 16.6 trillion cubic feet of gas and 416 million barrels of oil.