Congressman pushes for continued exploration in Recto Bank


Surigao Del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel said two offshore gas drilling activities in the Recto Bank in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) must proceed as scheduled despite tensions with China, stating that gas deposits there could yield up to Php910 billion in future royalties for the government.

Pimentel, chairman of the House Committee on Strategic Intelligence, added that the Sampaguita gas discovery in Recto Bank has the potential to energize the entire national grid for the next 20 to 30 years.

Based on records from the Department of Energy (DOE), Pimentel said Forum Energy — Sampaguita’s operator is — required to drill two offshore appraisal wells on or before October 16, 2022. Forum Energy, which holds the rights to Service Contract 72, where Sampaguita is located, is owned by Manny V. Pangilinan-led PXP Energy.

The solon feels that Sampaguita is “an untapped value-changing asset” with up to 4.6 trillion cubic feet of gas, while Malampaya, which has been producing gas for the last 20 years, has only 1.6 trillion cubic feet of residual gas at best. One study, Pimentel added, even suggests that the entire Recto Bank has up to 20 trillion cubic feet of potential gas.

Pimentel warned the DOE against imposing another force majeure on Forum Energy, saying it would be a “colossal sign of weakness” on the part of the government.

The administration of the late Pres. Benigno Aquino III suspended all exploration activities in the WPS amid rising tensions with China. The moratorium was then lifted by the administration of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte last year.

The DOE then gave Forum Energy a two-year deadline, or until October 16, 2022 to drill its two commitment wells in Sampaguita, located 250 kilometers southwest of Malampaya.