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WPS oil search resumes

Chito Lozada




Exploration of the West Philippine Sea (WPS) for the country’s needed source of energy will continue after receiving approval from President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday, the Department of Energy (DoE) said.

The imprimatur considered the observance of good faith in the country’s foreign relations, a DoE statement noted.

The President acted on DoE’s recommendation to lift the force majeure declaration that led to the suspension of petroleum activities and exploration in the region.

DoE Secretary Alfonso Cusi said he had informed Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. of the President’s action.

Cusi pointed out that the lifting of the moratorium was arrived at in good faith and with full regard of the ongoing negotiations between the Philippines and China.

“The oasis of peace that the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs envision must also be an oasis of prosperity. For this to happen, the Philippines must restart its economy using the engine of energy resiliency and security,” Cusi said in a letter to Locsin.

Factor for energy security
“I thank the President for approving the DoE recommendation. We need to explore so we may address the country’s energy security,” Cusi added.

Under Republic Act 7638 or the “Department of Energy Act of 1992,” the DoE has the authority to regulate the exploration of the country’s indigenous energy resources.

“With the impending depletion of our natural gas reserve in Malampaya, it is the department’s position that there is an urgent imperative to resume exploration, development and production activities within our EEZ to ensure continuity of supply of indigenous resources in the country,” Cusi stressed.

Work reactivated
He stated that a “resume-to-work” notice was issued by the DoE to the Service Contractors doing petroleum-related activities in the areas of SC 59, 72 and 75 in WPS. The activities there were suspended on the ground of force majeure due to the WPS dispute.

SC 59 and 72 are operated by the Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corp. and Forum Ltd., respectively. Meanwhile, PXP Energy Corp. operates SC 75.

Cusi pointed out that the lifting of the suspension will infuse the economy with fresh foreign direct investments and generates high-skills jobs, both of which are needed to boost economic recovery following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The lifting of the suspension places the service contractors under legal obligation to put capital into the contract areas and hire Filipino engineers and technical workers to resume exploration,” he said.

Bids opened
Last 15 September, the DoE has opened the bids submitted by groups interested in the WPS oil exploration deals under the Philippine Conventional Energy Contracting Program (PCECP).

DoE evaluated the bidders for their work program and technical, financial and legal qualifications.

Troika Giant Power Corp. submitted a bid for Nominated Area 5 or the Mindoro-Cuyo basin, while businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan’s PXP Energy Corp targets an exploration deal in Nominated Area 6 and Dennis Uy’s Udenna Energy Corp. offered to explore Nominated Area 7 and 8 which are all in the disputed area.

DoE has been promoting to boost drilling activities in the country as the Philippines lags behind among its Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of oil exploration activities.

Cusi earlier said the Philippines only had five drillings per year for 10 years compared to the annual exploration activities of Vietnam at 24, Myanmar at 29, Thailand at 594 and Indonesia at 900.

Bolstering the oil and gas exploration will help the country to meet its power requirement of 43,765 megawatts by 2040, he said.