BAGUIO CITY - The government will still pursue oil and gas exploration in the Recto Bank, also known as the Reed Bank, because it is still within its territory, according to President Aquino.
The President has downplayed the protest of Taiwan against the country's plans to search for oil and gas in Recto Bank, insisting the area is not part of the Spratlys Island disputed by claimant countries.
Aquino pointed out that Recto Bank was mentioned by Taiwan only in 2009 when it followed China's nine-dash territorial claim over the South China Sea.
''The exploration has been ongoing even before I assumed office. I assume yung Taiwan is adopting the People's Republic's nine-dash policy. The nine-dash theory just got broadcasted in 2009. The dispute in Spratlys for instance, of which Recto Bank is not part of, was in the 70s,'' Aquino said in an interview with reporters late Sunday night at the Mansion, the official summer residence of the President here.
''Recto became a point of controversy only after 2009's publication of the nine dash theory,'' he said.
The Philippines has protested against China's 9-dash line forming a ring around the South China Sea which it claims is part of its territory. China has been using the map in asserting its territorial claim over the south sea, including Spratlys group.
Meanwhile, the President said government has no plans to ban mining operations except in 78 new ecotourism sites in the country.
The President also declared the government would also press for a higher tax on the booming mining industry, insisting the nation deserves a ''fair share'' from the projects.
The proposed mining ban in 78 sites and new tax formula on mining profits will be part of the executive order being drafted by the Cabinet on the new mining policy in the country, according to the President.
The President, during an interview with reporters last Sunday night at the Mansion here, said the Department of Tourism (DoT) has identified the new ecotourism sites ''where we will not allow, in all probability, mining.''
''It will be too much of risk especially given the fact that they just reported that we're on track to surpass the growth in tourism arrivals,'' he said. The government is targeting 10 million tourist arrivals by 2016.
''We don't think banning altogether is the solution. We will have small scale unregulated mining. We want to ensure that we get a fair share. We want to be able to also be part of the processing and we want to maximize the utility of the resource for our people,'' he added.