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DOE grants 2-year extension to Forum Energy's contract over Recto Bank

West Philippine Sea means BUSINESS

MANILA - The Department of Energy (DOE) has extended the Recto Bank drilling contract of UK-based Forum Energy Plc in light of delays caused by the territorial row between the Philippines and China.

In a joint disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, Philex Mining Corp and Philex Petroleum Corp said the DOE granted Forum Energy's request for an extension of the second sub-phase of oil and gas exploration and development under Service Contract 72.

"The deadline for completion of the second sub-phase, comprising the drilling of two appraisal wells, has now been extended by two years to August 14, 2015," the disclosure read.

SC 72 covers the Sampaguita prospect in the Recto Bank, whose resources are said to be on a par with the Philippines' largest natural gas field, the Malampaya. The latter fuels over a third of the country's power supply.

Forum Energy, a unit of Philex Mining, has been seeking the DOE's approval to conduct surveys over its prospect as early as July last year in preparation for its plan to drill the area.

The DOE, however, has yet to grant Forum Energy's request, further shortening the company's drilling window, which is already limited by weather conditions and the availability of drill rigs.

A territorial dispute between the Philippines and China over parts of the West Philippine Sea has prevented Forum Energy from proceeding as planned.

In light of this, DOE Secretary Carlos Jericho L. Petilla had said projects in contested territories in offshore Palawan would have to get clearance from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Philex Mining owns 65 percent of Philex Petroleum, which in turn owns 60.49 percent of Forum Energy. Manuel V. Pangilinan chairs Philex Mining, Philex Petroleum and TV5, of which is the online news portal.