Our problem of rising prices, now being worsened by unpredictable world oil prices, have made more urgent the need for our country to intensify its search for its own indigenous sources of energy.
The visit of China President Xi Jinping this November will see the signing of an agreement for a joint exploration for oil in the Reed Bank in the South China Sea, also known as Recto Bank, just west of Palawan, in an area claimed by both the Philippines and China. We were about to begin drilling operations on Reed Bank in 2012 when everything was put on hold.
The exploration agreement signed with the Israeli company Ratio Petroleum, Ltd., last week will have no problem of jurisdiction. The Israeli firm will be exploring for oil in an area just northeast of Palawan, within the vast sea bounded in the north by Mindoro, in the east by the Visayan islands, in the southeast by Mindano and Sulu, in the southwest by Borneo, and in the west by Palawan.
Ratio Petroleum will explore in the East Palawan Basin, in Area 4 covering 416,000 hectares, in the next seven years, when it expects to expend some $34,350,000 for studies, data gathering, and drilling activities. The Israeli firm has other operations underway — in the Levant Basin in the eastern Mediterranean Sea, off the coast of Israel, and in Malta and Guyana.
There are at least 14 areas in the country believed to have oil deposits – one in the Cagayan Basin, four in Western Luzon, two in Agusan-Davao, one in Cotabato, three in Sulu, and three in Palawan. Area 4 which Israel’s Ratio Petroleum will now explore is one of these three in Palawan.
During the signing ceremony in Malacanang, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said President Duterte has stressed the need for the country to boost the development of its own energy resources, especially now that we are finding that our dependence on importation has left us at the mercy of unpredictable price movements in the global oil market.
The Philippines imports 94 percent of its oil needs at a cost of $9.89 billion in 2017. This is 31 percent higher than the $7.54 billion we paid for our oil needs in 2016. And we can expect the need to grow even more in the coming years.
We must step up our energy development program. We have long been benefitting from the Malampaya natural gas field. We already have many renewable energy projects underway – geothermal, solar, wind, biomass, etc. We should now step up our efforts to develop the areas in various parts of the country, like Palawan, where preliminary exploratory tests have confirmed the likelihood of oil deposits.