The Department of Energy (DOE) said it stands firmly behind any of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte’s decisions and actions regarding the assertion of the exclusive licensing authority of the Philippines over petroleum and other resources in the seabed and subsoil of the West Philippine Sea (WPS).
In statement, the DOE emphasized that it support’s Duterte’s statement regarding the defense of the resources of the Philippine seabed and subsoil, as this is in accordance with the Constitution and our petroleum laws.
Under Philippine laws, only the Philippine government — through the DOE — may issue licenses to drill in Philippine land territory, including its islands, internal waters, territorial sea, exclusive economic zone (EEZ), and continental shelf.
In his late-night public address on Monday, Duterte said that he will only send warships to the WPS only if China begins drilling for oil. The WPS is part of the country’s 200-mile EEZ, as stipulated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas. Chinese ships, as well as artificial islands with built-up structures well within the Philippines’ EEZ have been spotted in the last few weeks.
“Should any foreign state engage in petroleum activities inside the Philippine petroleum jurisdiction, the DOE shall take the necessary steps to protect our licensees and preserve our resources. It shall defer to the sole prerogative of the President regarding any security option. It shall also conform to any decision that the Department of Foreign Affairs might take regarding the ongoing informal negotiations on oil and gas cooperation with China,” the statement read.
“Meanwhile, the DOE continues to develop the uncontested Philippine EEZ and continental shelf through the resumption of petroleum operations by our licensees and the award of new petroleum areas. The Philippines remains in business, COVID-19 and China, notwithstanding,” it continued.
There are at least ten service contract (SC) blocks for oil and gas exploration in the WPS. One of the notable blocks is SC72 in the Recto Bank. PXP Energy, which operates SC72, signed a memorandum of understanding with the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) for drilling activities in the area. CNOOC is China’s state-owned oil exploration firm.