Drilling of 5 wells eyed in WPS


The Department of Energy (DOE) said it is looking to have at least five petroleum wells drilled within the West Philippine Sea (WPS)

The department particularly said it is expecting the drilling of two wells within the Service Contract (SC) 59 block and one each within SCs 54, 58, and 72.

PNOC-Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC), which operates SC59, has allotted a timeframe of around 11 months to drill a firm and a contingent well. However, it requested for Force Majeure due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Located off the southwestern coast of Palawan, SC59 was one of three exploration blocks authorized to resume activities after the lifting of the moratorium in October 2020.

SC58, also under PNOC-EC, has a timeline of around seven months, though the DOE approved a one-year Force Majeure, also due to the pandemic. The exploration block is located west of the Calamian Islands in northern Palawan.

Nido Petroleum Philippines-controlled SC54, meanwhile, has a 352-day timeframe, but like PNOC-EC, also requested for Force Majeure. SC54 is located off the coast of northwestern Palawan.

SC72 of Manny V. Pangilinan-led PXP Energy is hoping to drill an exploration or appraisal well by June 2022. The exploration block is particularly handled by subsidiary Forum Energy.

PXP Energy has also proposed to acquire, process and interpret 1,000 square-kilometers of 3D seismic data or 2,000 line-kilometer of 2D seismic data for its SC75 block.

SCs 72 and 75 are the other two blocks that the DOE allowed to continue operations following the lifting of the exploration ban. Based on a Manila Bulletin report, both blocks have expressed willingness to resume their extended seismic survey and exploration activities. However, they are still in talks with the DOE on regarding the safety and security of their offshore operations given the tensions between the Philippines and China in the WPS.

All exploration blocks are within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone, as stipulated in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Despite the pause in oil and gas drilling ventures in the WPS, the DOE insisted that exploration firms continue with their operations.

“These activities are concrete and explicit forms of the enforcement of sovereign rights consistent with our real gains in the South China Sea Arbitral Award. Under the [UNCLOS], petroleum licensing is the most important sovereign right of a coastal state like the Philippines,” the DOE said in a statement.

“Due to the significant investment involved in carrying out exploration programs, onsite exploration activities are carefully planned to ensure the maximum coverage of data collection in the study area. Physical structures (i.e. production platforms) shall only be installed prior to the production of petroleum in commercial quantities,” it added.