The Straits Times
Published on Jan 17, 2013

Philippine group says China firm vital for gas project


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.