Explore WPS, don’t mind Chinese — Rodriguez

Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez on Monday urged the Marcos administration to ignore the Chinese and begin exploring the West Philippine Sea for gas and oil.

Rodriguez, who chairs the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments, said the government should not consider what the Chinese might say and should instead be led only by the country’s interests.

“Let’s do it, let’s look for gas and oil in the WPS, especially in Recto Bank off Palawan, which reportedly holds natural gas deposits that are bigger than those in Malampaya, which by the way is drying up in a few years,” he said.

“They will always protest even if the exploration areas are not part of their territory. They are the interloper there,” he added.

The lawmaker likewise urged the administration, through the Philippine National Oil Co.-Exploration Corp., to implement the service contract to search for gas in Recto Bank, within the country’s 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

The Recto Bank, according to the solon, could potentially replace Malampaya, which supplies a large part of the fuel requirements of power plants energizing Metro Manila and Luzon.

He claimed that natural gas is cheaper than other fuels, and the closure of Malampaya in a few years, without a replacement, would result in higher electricity costs in Luzon.

The Mindanao lawmaker noted that under former President Rodrigo Dutrete, the previous administration had been trying since 2018 to iron out an exploration agreement with China compliant with the Philippine Constitution. However, Duterte terminated the talks before he stepped down last June.

“So let’s do it on our own. They should not dictate what we should do in our own territory. They should not force us to violate our own Constitution,” Rodriguez said.

Meanwhile, he recommended that select Chinese corporations could participate in oil and gas development as subcontractors.

Rodriguez even disclosed that PNOC-EC president and CEO Franz Alvarez, a former Palawan lawmaker, had earlier said that his agency aims to progress in several exploration sites in Isabela and Palawan.

However, those areas do not include Recto Bank, where Forum Energy, a company identified with businessman Manny Pangilinan, had been awarded a service contract, according to the solon.

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