Oil and gas exploration activities conducted by any foreign companies in the contested waters in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) without China’s permission are “illegal”, Beijing’s foreign official said.
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei slammed a report that a London-listed Forum Energy Plc has obtained approval from the Philippine government to extend by one year its drilling plan for a natural gas project in the disputed Reed Bank in the West Philippine Sea.
“Without permission from China, oil and gas exploration by any foreign companies in waters under China’s jurisdiction is illegal and invalid,” Hong told a daily press conference in Beijing.
Philippines’ Foreign Affairs spokesman Charles Jose declined to comment on Hong’s remarks and said that it would issue an official statement on Monday.
Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said “China is as usual asserting a fictitious claim over a formation that is indisputably part of the continental shelf of the Philippines. Beijing is mistaken if it thinks it can intimidate the country with its bully tactics.”
Reed Bank or Recto Bank as the Philippines calls it and Liyue Bank (China) is an undersea territory 50 miles or 80 Kilometers off Palawan.
The Recto Bank is within the 200 nautical miles exclusive economic zone of the Philippines.
The 200 nautical miles EEZ was provided by the United Nation (UN) Convention on the Law of the Sea where China is also a signatory of that provision.
China is claiming 90-percent or the whole land, features and waters of the South China Sea citing the nine-dash-line of its ancient map.
Hong maintained that China has “indisputable sovereignty over the Nansha Islands and their adjacent waters” and that any oil exploration activity is illegal.
A letter of Mark Rilles CIO-OIC of Forum Energy, which was posted on Philex Petroleum Corporation’s official website confirmed that the Philippines’ Department of Energy has granted the Company’s request for an extension to the second sub-phase of Service Contract 72.
“The deadline for completion of the second sub-phase, comprising the drilling of two appraisal wells, has now been extended by one year to August 15, 2016,” Rilles said.
Forum has a 70 percent interest in Service Contract (SC) 72, an oil and gas exploration permit covering the Sampaguita natural gas prospect in the Recto Bank.
The Philippines’ Philex Petroleum Corp—which holds a 60.45 percent direct and indirect stake in Forum—posted a copy of the London filing to the Philippine Stock Exchange on Thursday.
In May, Philex Petroleum Chairman Manuel Pangilinan said Forum will likely start drilling in the Recto Bank, which the Philippines calls Recto Bank, in early 2016 despite rising tensions with Beijing.