Reed Bank gets priority

“The US Energy Information Administration has estimated reserves of 5.4 billion barrels of oil and 55.1 trillion cubic feet of gas, or twice more than was found in Malampaya.
Reed Bank gets priority

More than the environmental degradation and the filing of a new case before an international court over the maritime conflict with China, the Marcos administration should settle on its game plan for the resource-rich Reed Bank.

Retired Associate Justice Antonio Carpio said other Asian nations with territorial frictions with China were able to exploit the resources within their economic zones in defiance of threats.

“Why have Malaysia and Indonesia been able to do it? The Philippines even has the arbitral award and a strong alliance with the United States, which is willing to hold joint patrols with us, so why can’t we get the gas?” Carpio lamented.

The two neighbors of the Philippines invoked the 2016 arbitral award to go against Beijing’s territorial claim which both cushioned with deft diplomacy.

“Now China is quiet, while Malaysia and Indonesia enjoy their oil,” Carpio said when asked about the options of the Philippines in pursuing drilling at Reed or Recto Bank.

The area is known to be rich in natural gas and possibly oil. The Department of Energy (DoE) had awarded service contracts for the exploration and development of the area but the maritime deadlock with China has prevented the private developer from starting the project.

“We should invite our naval allies to joint exercises while we drill in Recto,” Carpio suggested.

The US Energy Information Administration has estimated reserves of 5.4 billion barrels of oil and 55.1 trillion cubic feet of gas, or twice more than was found in Malampaya.

The former magistrate said our energy security and even our national existence depend on exploiting Recto Bank to augment Malampaya, which provided 40 percent of Luzon’s electricity with natural gas at its peak output.

“Why were these other countries able to get their gas? At bottom, the battle for the exclusive economic zone is about who gets to benefit from the natural resources,” Carpio said.

Even if China does not recognize the country’s EEZ or the arbitral award, Carpio said we would be winning as long as we get the gas.

The Constitution says the marine wealth in the EEZ should be exclusively for the benefit of Filipinos.

Carpio qualified: “That does not mean, however, that we cannot hire foreign companies to extract the gas for a fee. In other words, the Constitution allows service contracts.”

Through service contracts, the government conducts biddings for contractors that usually involve foreign companies with capital.

Service Contract 72 covering Recto Bank was awarded to the Forum Energy consortium.

“The consortium was about to start explorations during the previous administration but former President Rodrigo Duterte stopped them because he did not want to displease President Xi Jinping,” Carpio said.

He said the joint maritime patrols with our allies will at some point reach Reed Bank and that will be the time the consortium will send its survey ship prior to the start of drilling.

However, the Constitution does not allow joint development with other nations.

But Chinese companies can come in as service contractors for Recto Bank, which is the case with the China National Offshore Oil Co., which is part of the Forum consortium.

Solving the Reed Bank puzzle will be the litmus test for the Marcos administration in its push against China’s expansive intrusion into the West Philippine Sea.

Daily Tribune