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Philippines set for oil drilling amid China spat

by Staff Writers
Manila (AFP) March 23, 2011
The Philippines is set to pursue oil exploration in disputed waters of the South China Sea amid a spat with China, the government and the company behind the project said.

Britain-based Forum Energy said in a statement it had completed a seismic survey on the Sampaguita Gas field off the Reed Bank, which is much closer to the Philippines than China.

"The company will immediately begin processing the data with the aim of further evaluating the commercial potential of the block, and to help identify the best location for possible appraisal wells to be drilled," it said.

Forum Energy executive chairman Robin Nicholson said: "We have now met our contractual commitments with the Philippine Department of Energy under Service Contract 72 and look forward to making further investments into the project."

Asked to confirm the contractor's work plan, Energy Undersecretary Ramon Allan Oca told AFP Wednesday: "I think that's a fairly correct statement."

Asked to comment, Chinese embassy spokesman Sun Yi requested a copy of the Forum Energy announcement, but did not return subsequent calls by AFP.

China reiterated its claim over disputed islands in the South China Sea two weeks ago after both the Philippines and Vietnam protested to Beijing over its naval activity in contested waters.

"China holds indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters," foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu told reporters in Beijing on March 8.

The Philippines lodged a complaint after two Chinese vessels ordered its oil exploration boat to leave waters near Reed Bank on March 2.

The Reed Bank lies about 150 kilometres (90 miles) east of the reputedly oil-rich Spratly chain, which are claimed in whole or in part by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam, as well as the Philippines and China.

Forum Energy is a subsidiary of Philex Mining Corp., a Philippine company.

A Philex Mining official who asked not to be named told AFP the parent firm was not directly involved in the Reed Bank project and referred queries to the energy ministry.

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