The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday said oil drilling operations at Reed Bank will continue as planned despite China’s warning.
Charles Jose, Foreign Affairs spokesperson, said in a news briefing that an arbitration case filed by the Philippines against China because of overlapping claims in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) will not affect the project to be carried out by Forum Energy, which is controlled by business tycoon Manuel Pangilinan.
Reed Bank is about 85 nautical miles from the coast of Palawan province in western Philippines and 595 nautical miles from the coast of Hainan, China.
It forms part of the Philippine continental shelf under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos), according to Jose.
Although he said he was not certain if the Reed Bank was one of the features mentioned in the arbitration case, the official believed the department would not be handing out service contracts if the arbitration will impede the drilling activities.
His response came amid reports that the Department of Energy (DOE) allowed Forum Energy an extension of the second sub-phase of Service Contract (SC72) until August 15, 2016.
The first extension has not lapsed, and was due to end on August 14, 2015 as awarded in January last year.
SC72 covers 8,800 square kilometers, which could possibly contain as much as 16.6 trillion cubic feet of gas and 416 million barrels of oil, according to Forum Energy consultant Weatherford Petroleum.
It was awarded to Forum Energy in 2010 as a way to assert the Philippines’ sovereignty and sovereign rights over Reed Bank.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei last week warned the Philippines against oil drilling activities in the Reed Bank.
“Without permission from China, oil and gas exploration by any foreign companies in waters under China’s jurisdiction is illegal and invalid,” she said.
Reed Bank falls inside China’s nine-dash line claim, which covers about 90 percent of the West Philippine Sea.
But Jose noted that Reed Bank “is not an island, or a low tide elevation.”
“Rather, Reed Bank is completely a submerged bank that is part of the continental margin of Palawan,” he said.