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Business tycoon Manny V. Pangilinan is looking into reopening its oil explorations despite the long-time territorial conflict in the West Philippine Sea versus China.

Pangilinan’s energy venture, PXP Energy Corp., has ongoing drilling projects in the Reed Bank that were stalled by the government after the Philippines filed an international arbitration case against China over the disputed area.

“I think there are indications that there could be gas in the area,” Pangilinan told reporters at the ASEAN 50th anniversary celebration in Makati City last Wednesday.

The energy firm holds the drilling rights in the Palawan island since the Aquino administration and was even in talks with Chinese firm China National Offshore Oil Corp. for a joint exploration and development of the Reed Bank.

Pangilinan expressed the urgency to resume PXP Energy’s explorations, especially on account of the delicate state of the Malampaya plant, which is believed to deplete in 2024.

“When it will run out completely, we have no idea. We’re hearing 2029. But it will start running out pretty soon,” he said.

Pangilinan also stressed that the exploration contracts in the Reed Bank would be able to meet the country’s natural gas requirements if the government is ready to begin deciding on lifting the ban as soon as possible.

“If (gas quantity) is close to, equal or better than (Malampaya), obviously, it’s something. From a purely commercial perspective and setting aside political aspects, then I think we should try to determine whether there’s gas or not,” Pangilinan said.

However, Pangilinan is far from being discouraged by such unfortunate events since there have been more open and “friendlier” relations between the Philippines and China as of recent.

“I can just describe the general context under which we can move forward and the environment looks pretty positive,” he said.

Reed Bank is under Service Contract 72’s Sampaguita natural gas prospect toward West Palawan where economic developments in the area are currently suspended due to territorial disputes with China.

Pangilinan’s PXP Energy holds a controlling interest at 70 percent in the area through London-listed Forum Energy PLC.