Resumption of oil-drilling talks seen
Businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan is hoping to resume by early next year talks with state-owned China National Offshore Oil Co. (CNOOC) on its possible acquisition of a stake in the Recto Bank exploration project off the West Philippine Sea.
Pangilinan, who sits as chairman of Philex Petroleum Corp., a major shareholder in Forum Energy Plc, noted that it would be up to CNOOC if it would still initiate new discussions following the preliminary talks held in Beijing earlier this year.
“Hopefully, we can get some response from them with the change in leadership,” Pangilinan said, referring to the unveiling of China’s new government leaders last week. “You have to allow them to have a bit of time because these are new leaders of China. We have to be patient.”
He even added that they were not setting a timetable for potential future discussions even as the implementation of the planned $75-million drilling program draws near. The initial target is to start drilling the first of the two appraisal wells within the highly prospective Sampaguita prospect by March of next year.
Pangilinan earlier admitted that they might be delayed in carrying out their exploration and development commitments to the Philippine government due to delays in securing permits to conduct a geotechnical survey over the area prior to drilling a well.
For instance, Forum Energy was supposed to have a geotechnical drilling vessel last October to do some seven to 10 days’ worth of survey work. But the Department of Energy still has yet to issue the approval to proceed with the survey.
Pangilinan said he believed that CNOOC remained a competent partner in the planned exploration and development of a portion of the Recto Bank covered by Service Contract 72. He earlier explained that the partnership with CNOOC would not only boost financial and technological support for the project but also serve to “depoliticize” the concession area.
Touted as the next Malampaya, Recto Bank is located within the West Philippine Sea where both the Philippines and China are claiming sovereignty.
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