DND to protect British firm behind drilling ops in Recto Bank
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - July 21, 2014 - 6:12pm

MANILA, Philippines - The Defense Department will provide security to Forum Energy, the British firm conducting drilling operations in Recto (Reed) Bank, amid China’s strong opposition to the project.

“Within our capability we will be able to extend all the necessary protection for the (company),” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin told reporters in an interview on Monday.

The defense chief stressed that Forum Energy does not need to seek permission from China because Recto Bank is within Philippine territory.

“When you seek permission, it means the area is theirs. It is clear that the area is ours,” Gazmin said.

“We are waiting for the decision of the arbitral court so we can determine who has the marine entitlement in the area,” he added.

Recto Bank is located within 80 nautical miles from Palawan and is being considered as a site for exploration projects. It is also being claimed by China even if it is located within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The Energy Department has granted a one-year extension to Forum Energy’s work program in Recto Bank, allowing the firm to conduct drilling operations until August 15, 2016.

China said the drilling extension is “illegal and invalid” and insisted that the Philippines secure its permission before undertaking the project.

Last Friday, Armed Forces chief Lt. Gen. Gregorio Catapang gave assurance that the Philippines won’t lose Recto Bank to intruders.

He said the military would continue to monitor the area while the government tries to address the dispute diplomatically.

“We will report what is happening in the area and then we will follow whatever orders will given to us by the Department of Foreign Affairs,” Catapang added.

Philex Mining, a company led by businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan, owns 64.45 percent of Forum Energy through its interests in FEC Resources Inc. and Philex Petroleum Corp. (with a report from I. Bongcales)

ARMED FORCES DEFENSE DEPARTMENT DEFENSE SECRETARY VOLTAIRE GAZMIN DEPARTMENT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS ENERGY DEPARTMENT FORUM ENERGY GREGORIO CATAPANG LAST FRIDAY MANUEL V RECTO BANK
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