Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Philippine ports tycoon Enrique Razon is opposing a plan by Philex Mining Corp. chair Manuel Pangilinan to bring in a Chinese company as a partner in tapping natural gas deposits in Recto Bank off the coast of Palawan province in west Philippines.
"Manny Pangilinan's trip to Beijing is on his own accord and he does not speak for the other partners in the consortium and any discussion he had with CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corp.) is only as far as the share of Pangilinan's group is concerned," said Razon in a text message to the Inquirer.
Razon controls privately held Monte Oro Resources Energy, which has a 30-per cent share in Service Contract 72 (SC-72), the state-granted exploration franchise that covers Recto Bank.
Philex Mining, through its subsidiaries FEC Resources Inc. and Philex Petroleum, owns a controlling 64.45-per cent share of Forum Energy Plc., which holds the remaining 70-per cent share of SC-72.
Razon was irked by Pangilinan's admission that he visited Beijing last week to meet with CNOOC officials with SC-72 as the "primary focus of discussions".
Colossal sign of weakness
"As the only Filipino-owned company in SC-72, bringing in the Chinese is a colossal sign of weakness and poor judgment. Discussing the possible resources in Recto Bank is an ill-advised move," said Razon.
He was referring to the months-long tension between the Philippines and China over the Panatag Shoal off the coast of Zambales province.
Recto Bank is also being claimed by China.
Two weeks ago, Forum Energy said that new findings had showed that the gas deposits in SC-72 could be bigger than previously estimated.
The bigger estimate was based on the interpretation of new 3D and 2D data from the service contract area, according to Forum Energy.
Previous estimates said that the Sampaguita prospect alone was expected to hold roughly 3.4 trillion cubic feet of gas and potentially 440 million barrels of oil, deposits believed to be bigger than the existing Malampaya gas field off Palawan.
Razon noted that while Pangilinan was a Filipino, his bosses-the Salims of Indonesia-were not. Pangilinan is the CEO of the Hong Kong-based First Pacific group owned by the Salims.
"If Pangilinan insists on bringing in CNOOC, he has to dilute his group's 65-per cent share holdings to accommodate them," said Razon.
He was adamant that Monte Oro would not agree to having CNOOC as a consortium partner.
"We cannot be diluted as our stake is direct. So if they want a partner it has to come out of their share."
Earlier, lawmakers raised questions about Pangilinan's decision to consider a Chinese company as a partner in exploring the disputed territories of the country, with one of them calling the act "treasonous".
Back to GMA
"Philex is going back to the stance of (former President) Gloria Arroyo of acceding to the 'joint development' of the West Philippine Sea which is the Chinese position. China essentially bought GMA. Yes, it is treasonous," said Akbayan Representative Walden Bello.
Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon said: "Why are we allowing the Chinese to explore any part of our territory when they are treating us like pushovers in our boundaries? It's like going to bed with the enemy."
In a text message, Pangilinan said: "He's entitled to his opinion, I suppose. All I can say is-"How does he (Razon) know what we talked about with CNOOC? As far as I know, he was neither invited to nor was he present at the meeting. The resource potential of SC-72 was not discussed at all."
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