MANILA, May 21 (Reuters) - A unit of Philippine firm Philex Petroleum Corp plans to start drilling two more wells in disputed waters in the South China Sea even without a partner and despite rising tensions with Beijing, its chairman said on Wednesday.
London-listed Forum Energy Plc will likely start drilling the appraisal wells in its Sampaguita gas field in the Reed Bank, which the Philippines calls Recto Bank, in early 2016, said Philex chairman Manuel Pangilinan.
That means the exploration firm will seek another extension of a drilling permit for the area from the Philippine government. Its current permit expires in August 2015.
"Yes, that is our intention," Pangilinan said in a mobile text message to Reuters when asked if the company would conduct oil and gas exploration alone and start drilling by 2016.
"That's the plan of Philex Petroleum, subject to Philippine government approval," Pangilinan said, confirming a report released by local online news site Interaksyon (http://link.reuters.com/fec59v)
"And of course, we do not know how China would react," he said.
Territorial disputes between the Philippines and China have hampered Forum's plan to drill at least two more appraisal wells within the Service Contract 72 exploration permit awarded to it by the Philippine government in 2010. In 2011, Chinese patrol vessels almost rammed a survey ship contracted by Philex in Reed Bank.
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