Gatchalian optimistic China won’t meddle in WPS oil, gas search

Published October 17, 2020, 5:01 PM

by Mario Casayuran

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, has expressed optimism that China would not interfere with oil and gas drillings in the contested West Philippine Sea (WPS) because of existing good diplomatic relations between the Philippines and China.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian(Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

China knows that the Philippines is in dire need of oil and gas, he stressed.

Gatchalian said tension rose between Vietnam and China after the former started oil drilling in its EEZ.

He said that there about 30 live service contracts ready to drill in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

The country’s EEZ is in the WPS based on the 2016 United Nations Arbitral Court decision.

That decision rejected China’s “historical” territorial claim over most parts of South China Sea (SCS) and favored the Philippine claim over the WPS.

Gatchalian cited a recent statement of President Duterte before the UN General Assembly that the Philippines is standing by the UN decision over the WPS based on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The President’s speech is ‘’historic’’ and that is now etched in Philippine memory, he added.

In a DWIZ radio interview, Gatchalian said Duterte’s ‘’Drill, Drill, Drill’’ oil exploration program got off to a good start when the President lifted the moratorium on oil exploration in the WPS.

He said that 99 percent of the country’s oil supply comes from abroad.

One of the beneficiaries of the lifting of the moratorium is China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC).

The moratorium lifting comes at a time when the Malampaya gas field was reported near resource exhaustion and that gas from this undersea field would start to diminish by 2024.