West PH Sea update: Natural gas reserves in Reed Bank bigger than Malampaya; Aquino warns Asean of China's aggresiveness; PH government sites attacked

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Tuesday, 24 April 2012 - Last Updated on April 24, 2012

The Department of Energy (DOE) confirmed on Monday that the natural gas reserves in Reed Bank (locally known as Recto Bank) may be equal, if not greater than the deposits found in the Malampaya natural gas field.

“We are hoping for equal, if not at least a bit higher natural gas from Sampaguita Field (in Reed Bank),” said DOE Undersecretary Jay Layug in an Interaksyon report

Layug said that the discovery, which was earlier branded as “world class” by one of the private firms exploring the area, is a substantial find considering the dwindling supply of natural gas from Malampaya.

Of the 2.7-trillion cubic feet of gas in the Malampaya gas field, ABS-CBN News reports that more than 1.2 trillion cubic feet has already been used to power Luzon’s major electricity plants. The DOE said that the natural glass supply from this field is expected to run out by 2024.

The confirmation of the natural gas discovery in Reed Bank came a few days after the DOE announced that they will continue oil and gas explorations in the heavily disputed West Philippine Sea.

Reed Bank – located 70 nautical miles west of Palawan – is one of the disputed areas in the Spratly Archipelago.

The entire Spratly Group of Islands is claimed as a whole by China, Vietnam and Taiwan, and in part by the Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia.

Last year, China called on all other claimants to the region to stop all forms of exploration in the Spratlys.

Asean should fear China

The announcement of the natural gas reserve find at Reed Bank happened amid the ongoing standoff between Chinese and Philippine naval forces at Scarborough Shoal (locally known as Panatag).

Yesterday, President Benigno Aquino III appealed to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to take a stand on the territorial dispute, adding that they should fear Beijing’s growing aggressiveness over its claims in the region.

“They claim this entire body of water practically. Look at what is excluded and what they are claiming,” Aquino was quoted in an ABS-CBN News report. “So how can the others not be fearful of what is transpiring?”

According to an Inquirer report, Aquino stressed that his government is seeking a diplomatic solution to end the standoff.

Last week, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) urged the Chinese government to elevate the problem to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS).

Beijing, however, ruled out the proposal and called on Manila to settle a dispute through “friendly consultations.”

Meanwhile, the Inquirer reports that a ship from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) yesterday joined the Philippine Coast Guard’s BRP Pampanga in Scarborough.

The BRP Pampanga was deployed in the area Monday to relieve BRP Edsa which returned to base to replenish provisions and refuel.

Accoring to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Northern Luzon Command, the Philippine vessels are keeping a watch on several Chinese fishing vessels and a gunboat spotted in the area.

“We saw two Chinese fishing boats but these were outside the shoal. Our Coast Guard ship saw the CMS 71 but they had no visual contact of the other, the FLEC, 310 (gunboat)… but we assume it’s still there,” AFP Northern Luzon Command Chief Lt. Gen. Anthony Alcantara was quoted in an Inquirer report.

PH government websites attacked by hackers

Meanwhile, hackers whose IP addresses are assigned to Chinese networks attacked several Philippine government websites on Sunday.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda yesterday saidsaid that the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) “noticed a significant spike in traffic with malicious URL requests from forged user-agents being channeled” to three government websites.

The websites that received the distributed denial of service attacks were that of the Official Gazette, PCDSPO and to the Presidential Museum and Library.

Lacierda said that the attack cause a “momentary lag” to the said websites.

Last week, a group of alleged Chinese hackers defaced the University of the Philippines website and claimed that Scarborough Shoal belonged to China.

Several days later, alleged Filipino hackers attacked Chinese websites and stated that the shoal belongs to the Philippines.

The Philippine government has since denounced the cyber attacks on both the Philippine and Chinese websites, saying that the actions were “counter productive and will only add to the tensions” between the two countries.

China, meanwhile, has yet to issue a statement re
garding the cyberattacks.

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