MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Energy (DOE) maintained there is nothing illegal with its decision to extend Forum Energy's exploration license over the disputed Recto Bank by a year.
"We are looking at Philippines laws right now and under that law, we did not violate. As far as we are concerned, we did not violate anything under our laws," Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said.
Petilla's comments are in reaction to China's statement that any drilling of oil and gas by foreign companies in the disputed South China Sea without its permission is "illegal."
"China holds indisputable sovereignty over the Spratly Islands and surrounding waters. Any foreign company, if it has not received China's permission, exploring oil and gas in waters under Chinese jurisdiction is illegal and invalid," Hong Lei, spokesman of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, earlier said.
Last week, the DOE approved a one-year extension for London-listed Forum Energy's drilling plan for a natural gas project in Recto Bank.
Forum plans to drill two appraisal wells to assess the size of gas or oil discoveries in Recto Bank. It has until August 15, 2016 to complete the drilling, but the ongoing dispute between the Philippines and China has hampered the drilling plans.