Philex eyes fresh talks with CNOOC

By Neil Jerome C. Morales, The Philippine Star

Posted at Nov 19 2012 07:26 AM | Updated as of Nov 19 2012 10:25 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Philex Petroleum Corp. is looking to start a fresh round of talks with China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) for the development of the potentially resource-rich Recto Bank in Northwest Palawan.

The listed upstream oil firm will wait for the response of its Chinese counterpart considering the recent leadership shakeup in the world’s second largest economy.

“Hopefully we can get some response from them with the change of leadership,” Philex Petroleum chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said.

In April, officials of Philex Petroleum conducted a meeting with government-owned CNOOC in Beijing.

Philex Petroleum earlier announced it is open to partnering with anyone that can help exploit the potential resources of the Recto Bank, which lies near the disputed Spratly Islands.

Its subsidiary, London-based Forum Energy Plc, through its 100-percent interest in Forum Philippine Holdings Ltd. and Forum Ltd., holds a 70-percent equity in the service contract 72 licence that covers an area of 8,800 square kilometers.

Pangilinan said there is no timeframe yet on the new round of talks considering the political transition in China.

“I think you have to allow a bit of time because these are new leaders of China so it may take a bit of time to put their feet under the table so to speak,” Pangilinan said.

Last week, Xi Jinping and Li Keqiang were appointed as the president and premier of the Communist Party, respectively, in a once-in-a-decade leadership change.

Philex Petroleum, the oil exploration unit of the country’s top gold producer Philex Mining Corp., earlier said CNOOC is financially and technically viable to be a partner.

In April, Forum Energy revealed that the latest seismic survey on its offshore prospects in the Recto Bank showed the prospective resources could reach as high as 16.612-trillion cubic feet for natural gas and 416 million barrels for oil.

The area is now believed to have 3.4 trillion cubic feet of gas and potentially 440 million barrels of oil – said to be bigger than the existing Malampaya gas field off Palawan.

Philex Petroleum plans to drill two appraisal wells in the Sampaguita gas field until August 2013 that needs an investment of $75 million.

China maintains that the waters around the island have been a traditional Chinese fishery.

The Philippines, on the other hand, insists that the Scarborough Shoal is within its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone based on the United Nations Convention on the Laws of the Sea.