Forum Energy postpones oil survey in Recto Bank

By Juzel L. Danganan

MANILA, Feb. 24 (PNA) — Forum Energy Plc. has postponed its oil and gas survey in the disputed Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea during summer upon the instructions of the Energy Department.

“The drilling will not continue because it takes some time to contract a drilling company and the possibility that there are talks between governments. Possible, it’s not guaranteed, so we don’t want the Forum project to be the culprit,” Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla told reporters Tuesday.

He stressed that the instructions was initially asked by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and other agencies, in which he complied.

Petilla noted that the DFA stressed there maybe some developments, if the drilling is set on hold.

“Whether it’s really talks or something else, I don’t know. It also might be prepositioning, maybe (there is a complaint) in the United Nation (UN) arbitration, then we have bad faith if we actually go into it,” he said.

Forum Energy Plc. Chairman Manuel Pangilinan also told reporters the company will abide with the instructions, adding exploration stage is presently not possible with the claim of the two parties. It has a huge stake in London-listed Philex Petroleum Corp.

Pangilinan said he doe s not see China giving up its claim on sovereignty, citing reports that China is currently building a base near Service Contract 72.

”In fact, if you read James Defence weekly, they’ve had several issues in the recent months in aviation week. They have several photos, there’s big rocks. They’re really developing. There’s an airstrip, there’s a naval facility, a small generating plant. It’s a foreword base…,” he said.

The business tycoon maintains Philex will not give up the service contract, hoping the best in the future.

”Of course not, (I won’t give up the contract). I believe it’s ours,” he said.

Petilla said Philex had to file another application for the extension on Service Contract 72 and that the DOE only has to respond.

If nothing happens between the talks, the Energy Secretary said he will allow the lifting of moratorium with the condition that Forum Energy is willing to do so.

Last year, Pangilinan said Forum targets to conduct a seismic survey in April or May 2015, with the appraisal of drilling in 2016.

Philex Petroleum Corporation owns 60.49 percent of Forum Energy, a UK-based upstream oil and gas company.

Meanwhile, Forum Energy holds a 70-percent stake in SC 72, with the remaining share held by Monte Oro Resources and Energy Inc. (PNA)