MANILA, April 27 The Philippines' Energy
department on Friday accepted bids for five oil and natural gas
exploration contracts and set another tender in July for three
other areas, including two near the Reed Bank in the South China
Sea which China claims as its own.
A total of 16 bids were submitted in the Philippines'
latest, and biggest, energy contracting round involving 12
exploration blocks. But Energy Undersecretary Jose Layug said
seven bids had to be rejected due to incomplete requirements,
while five sites did not attract any bidders.
He said 38 companies have been prequalified to bid for a
total of 15 sites and most were likely interested mainly in the
three areas up for grabs in July.
"There's a lot of potential in the Recto Bank," Layug told
reporters, referring to the Reed Bank which the Philippines said
is within its territory.
The three areas are located near the Malampaya and
Sampaguita natural gas fields off the western Philippine island
of Palawan. Sampaguita is in the Reed Bank.
"These three areas are near the northwest Palawan basin and
they are the most prospective," he said.
Layug was hopeful the contracts will be awarded within the
year despite the escalating tensions between the Philippines and
China in the South China Sea.
The Energy department has set a 100-day evaluation of the
The Southeast Asian nation is seeking to boost domestic
suppy and lessen dependence on costly fuel imports.
Among the prequalified bidders expected to show up in the
July tender are Philex Petroleum Corp, a unit of the
Philippines' largest gold and copper producer Philex Mining Corp
, and Shell Philippines Exploration B.V.
Shell Philippines, a unit of Royal Dutch Shell Plc,
has a 45 percent stake in the Malampaya gas project that fuels
three major power plants now producing 2,700 megawatts of
electricity for the main Luzon island.
Philex Petroleum owns 65 percent of Forum Energy Plc
, the London-listed exploration firm that has a 70
percent interest in the Sampaguita gas discovery.
Forum has said the Sampaguita gas field contains more
resources than previously estimated, supporting the case to
proceed with its $75 million drilling programme in the area.
China claims ownership of the entire South China Sea,
including the Spratlys which is claimed in whole by Taiwan and
Vietnam and in part by Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines.