PNOC-EC revives exploration prospects in Liguasan Marsh

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State-owned PNOC-Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC) revived its interest to explore the Liguasan Marsh’s oil and gas potential.

PNOC-EC President and CEO Rozzano Briguez said at the Philippine Energy Transition Forum last week that the government-owned firm is still taking on studies, as well as a dual partnership with the academe and some of its proponents for onshore development and the use of the latest methods and technologies to reduce its negative impact on the environment.

The Liguasan Marsh is a 200,000-hectare protected area in North Cotabato, Maguindanao, and Sultan Kudarat consisting of wet and dry basins along the Mindanao River, the country’s second-longest river. It is reported to be rich in oil and natural gas deposits. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources in December 2020 turned over the marshland’s management to the government of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

PNOC-EC plans to begin its exploration activities in the Sultan Kudarat portion of the marsh, though Briguez wants the BARMM’s and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) policies laid out first before proceeding.

The company had a joint venture with Malaysia’s Petronas to develop the Liguasan Marsh, but the partnership was put on hold due to losses and security concerns in the area.

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte said in 2019 that the BARMM government should take the lead in developing the Liguasan Marsh. Under Article XIII, Section 10 of Republic Act 11054, or the Bangsamoro Organic Law, both the autonomous region and the national government should co-manage any proceeds from the exploration, developlment, and utilization of “fossil fuels such as petroleum, natural gas and coal.”