DFA to lead DOE following UN Verdict

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is set to lead government agencies following the verdict of the UN Permanent Court of Arbitration on the West Philippine Sea, Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi said yesterday.

“The DFA will be assessing the over-all implications of the verdict in coordination with other agencies of the government, among them the Department of Energy,” he said.

China and the Philippines had overlapping claims over the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea and other nearby shoals and reefs.

The West Philippine Sea, especially the area adjacent from Northern Luzon to Palawan, which includes the Scarborough Shoal, are potential areas for exploration, former DOE secretary Zenaida Monsada said in 2012.

“The Philippines reiterates its abiding commitment to pursue a peaceful resolution of disputes in the South China Sea and promote peace and stability in the region through diplomacy and consultations,” Cusi said.

In March 2015, DOE suspended drilling and explorations in the West Philippine Sea covered by the Service Contract (SC) 72 in the Reed Bank when the site became the subject of the territorial dispute between Philippines and China.

The SC 72 was issued in 2010, where petroleum companies like Philippine-based Philex Petroleum Corp, Monte Oro Resources and Energy Inc. all have substantial stakes under the said contract.

Philex Petroleum has 60.49 % interest in Forum Energy – which operates SC 72 in the Reed Bank covering the Sampaguita gas field  and other oil and gas leads.

In 2012, 3D seismic surveys conducted by Count Geophysics Ltd in 2006 said the area had 21% more gas than reserves near the Malampaya Gas Field.

Earlier this week, the UN Arbitral Tribunal issued that exclusive sovereign rights over the West Philippine Sea belonged to the Philipines and saying that China’s “nine-dash line” has no legal basis.

“The Tribunal concluded that there was no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling within the ‘nine-dash line,” its statement read.

However, China refused to recognize the award given by the Tribunal and said it “is null and void and has no binding force.”