Reed Bank (11°20′N 116°50′E / 11.333°N 116.833°E / 11.333; 116.833Coordinates: 11°20′N 116°50′E / 11.333°N 116.833°E / 11.333; 116.833), also known as Reed Tablemount, Recto Bank and several other names, is a large tablemount in the South China Sea in the NE of Dangerous Ground and the NE of the Spratly Islands. It covers an area of 8,866 square kilometres (3,423 sq mi),[1] but with depths between 9 and only 45 meters.[2] The submerged but hydrocarbon-rich area includes Nares Bank and Marie Louise Bank.

Although the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in 2016 that the area is within the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone,[3] economic rights to the area continue to be disputed - mainly by the PRC; see Spratly Islands dispute and Oil, gas and SC72 below - and exploitation of the hydrocarbon reserves by the Philippines have been suspended for some years.

The bank is in the northeast quadrant of the Philippine's Kalayaan claimed territory, which also includes most of the north and east portions of the Spratly Islands. The area is located off the west coast of Palawan, north of Iroquis reef and the Southern reefs, and east of the northern part of the Spratly Islands. The nearest occupied parts of the Spratly Islands are Philippine-occupied Flat Island, Nanshan Island and Second Thomas Shoal, and the PRC-occupied Mischief Reef.[4]

Subsequent to the PRC occupation Mischief Reef in the mid-1990s, a Philippine World-War-II-vintage naval landing craft, (LST 57 - Sierra Madre), was deliberately run aground on the Second Thomas Shoal in 1999 to maintain a Philippine naval outpost in the area; more than 15 years later it continues to be manned by about a dozen Philippine marines.

Oil, gas and SC72

Seismic surveys indicate that the Reed Bank is rich in oil and gas deposits, but they have only been partly tapped due to disputed claims from various countries, most particularly the PRC.[5]

Exploration in the area began in 1970, and in 1976 gas was discovered in the Sampaguita structure following the drilling of a well. In total, three wells have been drilled to date, all located at the south west end of the Sampaguita structure. The initial 2-year concession by the Philippines' Government to extract the resources, (SC72, formerly GSEC101,) was awarded to Sterling Energy PLC in June 2002. In April 2005, Forum Energy PLC (FEP) acquired the concession from Sterling and became its operator.[6] Forum Energy PLC (FEP) is a London-based listed oil and gas exploration firm focused on the Philippines; it is 64.45% owned by Philex Petroleum Corporation.[7]

In February 2010, the licence was converted to a Service Contract, and FEP performed geological and geophysical works and seismic surveys. In July 2011 the Philippines' Department of Energy (DOE) approved the commencement of a 2-year phase of the project leading to the drilling of 2 wells, and preparations commenced. However, the PRC Government had also granted exploration rights to the area to the PRC State-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC). The PRC objected to the Philippine arrangement. The requisite approvals from the Philippine DOE to commence drilling were not issued, and the project was placed on hold.[6][7]

In May 2012, the then Philex chairman and CEO, "MVP" (Manuel V. Pangilinan), made an offer to CNOOC, which CNOOC turned down. There have been further meetings between Philex and CNOOC, but the project remains on hold.[6][7]


  1. ^ List of Atolls showing location, area, depth, and rainfall (PDF), geosociety.org, 2001 
  2. ^ NGA Bathymetric Chart 91005 graphically illustrates unambiguously how the areas surrounding the Bank quickly descend from depths less than 100m to depths more than 1,000m in distances of less than 20km.
  3. ^ Sass Rogando Sasot (18 July 2016). "All about the (G)Reed Bank: From Ferdinand Marcos Sr. to Albert del Rosario". mindanation.com. 
  4. ^ Pasaylo, June (23 May 2011). "Palace: Reed Bank not subject to negotiation". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Laude, Jaime (20 March 2014). "China raring to seize oil-rich Reed Bank – Golez". The Philippine Star. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c "Reed bank". Forum Energy PLC (FEP). Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c Martelino-Reyes, Theresa (10 March 2014). "Chinese firm rejects MVP offer for share in PH project in Reed Bank". Vera Files. Retrieved 15 April 2014.