Senate Energy Committee chair Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Friday welcomed President Duterte’s decision to lift the moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea saying this will help address the country’s concern on energy security.
“The President’s decision to lift the moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea is a welcome development in the wake of the dwindling supply from the Malampaya reservoir which accounts for 20 percent of power supply of the country and almost 30 percent in Luzon,” Gatchalian said.
Gatchalian said the move bodes well in ensuring that the Philippines will have sufficient energy within its exclusive economic zones (EEZ).
“It will augur well in ensuring the country to be energy-sufficient if there are potential sources within the EEZ which could secure our energy supply in the coming years,” the senator added.
With the lifting of the moratorium, he said the stalled exploration and appraisal activities in Service Contracts (SC) 59, 72, and 75 can now resume.
The Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corp. (PNOC-EC) and Forum Ltd. operate SCs 59 and 72 respectively, while the PXP Energy Corp. operates SC 75.
“Following the lifting of the moratorium, the stalled exploration and appraisal activities in Service Contracts 59, 72, and 75 can now resume and these could be new sources of oil and gas which can secure, if not contribute, to stabilizing the country’s energy supply,” he said.
“This could also open up the area to prospective investors under the Philippine Conventional Energy Contracting Program which is designed primarily to attract investors to explore indigenous energy resources,” the lawmaker added.
Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the agency has issued “Resume-to-Work” advisories to the three SCs doing petroleum-related activities in their respective areas.
The Aquino administration had issued a moratorium on all oil and gas drilling activities in the area amid the rising geopolitical tensions in the West Philippine Sea in 2014.
But the Duterte administration’s pivot to China has enabled the government to sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Manila and Beijing for a joint oil and gas exploration deal in the disputed maritime territory.
According to Cusi, the lifting of the moratorium was arrived at in good faith and in full regard of the continuing negotiations between the Philippines and China and Forum, Ltd. and the China National Offshore Corp. (CNOC).