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Philippine group says China firm vital for gas project

Published on Jan 17, 2013 7:26 PM
Philex Mining's chairman Manuel Pangilinan gestures as he answers media queries during a forum with the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines at a hotel in Manila's Makati financial district on Jan 17, 2013. The Philippine company holding a contract to explore for oil and gas in disputed waters in the South China Sea said on Thursday the project's success hinged on either joint exploration with China or US support if the country took on the venture alone. Forum Energy Plc, whose majority shareholder is linked to top miner Philex Mining Corp, has had talks with Chinese state-owned offshore oil producer CNOOC on joint exploration. But those talks are clouded by competing Chinese and Philippine territorial claims to large swathes of the South China Sea. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

MANILA (AFP) - A Philippine consortium insisted today a gas project in the disputed South China Sea could only work with the involvement of a Chinese firm, otherwise Beijing could make things difficult.

The Philippine government has awarded the Forum Energy consortium the exploration contract for a potentially huge gas field off Reed Bank in waters at the centre of a fierce territorial row between Manila and Beijing.

Manila accused Chinese vessels in 2011 of harassing an exploration vessel in the area, which is off the Philippine island of Palawan. The waters around Reed Bank are also claimed by China as is most of the South China Sea.

The consortium opened talks with state-run China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC) last year, and its head insisted today that it was negotiating solely with the Chinese group to be a partner in the mega-project.

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