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Palace on Recto Bank gas exploration: Sovereignty not an issue

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda: ‘Recto Bank is part of our territory’ INQUIRER PHOTO. DZIQ photo

Malacañang on Thursday said that sovereignty was not an issue when it came to the gas exploration at Recto Bank.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda made this remark after he learned from Energy Secretary Rene Almendras that the Chinese partner of Philex Petroleum Corp. might withdraw from the gas exploration deal because of a sovereignty issue between China and the Philippines.

Businessman Manny Pangilinan heads Philex Petroleum Corp.

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Lacierda stressed that Pangilinan’s company was at Recto Bank because it was awarded a service contract to do so.

“So [sovereignty] is never an issue,” Lacierda told reporters.

He also cited President Aquino’s statement in Baguio City last week that there was “automatic sovereignty” in the service contract awarded to Pangilinan’s company.

“Because [Recto Bank] is part of our territory, and that is a contract awarded by the Philippine government to Pangilinan,” Lacierda said.

Asked whether the government could ensure the security of Philex Petroleum operations at Recto Bank, Lacierda said he would have to discuss this with Almendras first.

The Palace spokesman underscored the importance of the government’s gas explorations at Recto Bank, saying that resources there were “substantial” and “thrice as large as the Malampaya” gas field, based on expert findings.

Pangilinan, chairman of Philex Petroleum Corp., earlier said he would abandon a proposed partnership with state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) if sovereignty or commercial issues involving the disputed Recto Bank are not resolved to the satisfaction of his group and the Philippine government.

“One thing that we will not do is infringe on the sovereignty or breach the laws of this country. So if the terms proposed are not acceptable to us and/or our government, we will simply not proceed,” Pangilinan said shortly after meeting with Philex Mining Corp. stockholders.

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Both the Philippines and China have staked claims over the West Philippine Sea, which includes the oil and gas resource-rich Recto Bank.

Pangilinan explained that the partnership with CNOOC could boost financial and technological support for the project and, at the same time, serve to “depoliticize” the concession area.—With a report from Riza T. Olchondra

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TAGS: Edwin Lacierda, Recto Bank
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