With the impending depletion of the Malampaya gas field’s reserves and amid warming relations between the Philippine and Chinese governments,
President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the Department of Energy’s (DOE) recommendation to lift the suspension of oil exploration activities in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi said that the DOE issued “Resume-to-Work” notices to companies doing petroleum-related activities in the WPS, particularly in the areas of Service Contracts (SCs) 59, 72, and 75.
“With the impending depletion of our natural gas reserve in Malampaya, it is the department’s position that there is an urgent imperative to resume exploration, development, and production activities within our [exclusive economic zone] to ensure continuity of supply of indigenous resources in the country,” Cusi explained in a statement.
SC 59 (West Balabac) is operated by the Philippine National Oil Company – Exploration Corporation, while PXP Energy Corporation of business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan controls SCs 72 (Recto Bank) and 75 (Northwest Palawan). All three SC areas are within the disputed waters.
Cusi also pointed out that the lifting of the moratorium was arrived at “in good faith” and with full regard of the ongoing negotiations between the Philippines and China, as well as PXP-led Forum Ltd. and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation.
The administration of former President Benigno Aquino III suspended exploration activities in the WPS in 2014. And while the Philippines won in an arbitral case against China in 2016, the Duterte administration fostered warm relations with the latter.
“I thank the President for approving the DOE recommendation. We need to explore so we may address the country’s energy security,” Cusi added
Under Republic Act 7638 or the Department of Energy Act of 1992, the DOE has the authority to regulate the exploration of the country’s indigenous energy resources.
Cusi also pointed out that the lifting of the moratorium will infuse the economy with new foreign investments and would generate high-skills jobs, both of which are need in order to spur economic recovery following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.