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Philex Petroleum awaits gov’t cue on Reed Bank exploration

Philex Petroleum Corp. is awaiting the cue from the Duterte administration regarding its oil exploration activities in the West Philippine Sea.

This development comes on the heels of a decision by the Permanent Arbitration Court in The Hague, that China's claim of historic rights to resources in the waters of the South China Sea was "extinguished" as it was incompatible with the exclusive economic zones provided under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

“I think we have to study ourselves the decision and, of course, we have to take our cue from the government," Philex Petroleum Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan told reporters on the sidelines of an event in Taguig City late Wednesday.

"We don’t want to move without the government guiding us on what to do,” Pangilinan emphasized.

Philex Petroleum, through London-based subsidiary Forum Energy Plc, was in talks with China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) on developing a part of the Reed Bank — a vast offshore area claimed by both China and the Philippines.

In its ruling, the arbitration court noted that China violated Philippine sovereign rights to the 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone when Beijing blocked fishing and oil exploration in the area.

Ideal approach

Asked if the ruling signifies that Philex Petroleum would resume talks with CNOOC on oil exploration, Pangilinan did not make a direct commitment.

“Matagal nang wala kaming contact sa kanila, since we filed the arbitration or since the government filed for arbitration.”

Pangilinan noted the need to take a closer look at the ruling.

“Well for one, I have not yet seen the decision. I’ve asked for a copy from former DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) Secretary Albert Del Rosario when we had lunch today. I asked, ‘Could you send me a copy?’ So he’ll send me a copy,” Pangilinan said.

But the ideal approach to exploration in the area would be a joint venture, he said.

“I think we would need a partner... Assuming there’s gas there... we will need a partner — foreign partner most likely. Wala namang nakagawa dito ‘nun di ba?” he said.

“Malampaya was developed by Shell (Philippines Exploration B.V) and Chevron (Malampaya LLC). So probably — I’m not saying it will be them — but, yeah, we do need a foreign partner or partners,” he added. — VDS, GMA News