Senate plans to reframe PNOC mandate as oil/gas exploration firm

The Senate committee on energy is filing a legislative measure that will re-frame the investment function of state-run Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC), so it can concentrate its activities on oil and gas exploration ventures.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“We’re studying the possibility of reforming the Charter of PNOC to focus on drill, drill, drill and explore, explore, explore – because that was really its mandate during the 1970s,” Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian said.

With that proposed legislation, he opined that the investment activities of the government-owned firm will have to be re-focused on oil and gas -- given the unexplored and underexplored resources of the country.

“We’re in the middle of doing that, there’s already a bill, but we haven’t filed it. We’re still refining it,” the lawmaker emphasized.

And while PNOC had ventured into other industries throughout its corporate existence, Gatchalian noted it is about time for it to go back to its original investment mandate in the upstream petroleum sector.

“Gas will be the medium term fuel of choice; and it’s already proven that we have gas resources. So, we can take advantage of our resources by doing more exploration and more seismic activities,” he stressed.

There had been previous proposals to re-integrate subsidiary PNOC-Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC) to its parent firm, then that amalgamated corporate vehicle shall do the exploration activities in the upstream oil and gas industry.

The vision is for the Philippines to have a state-owned oil and gas company that could match the successful forays of other countries, including peers in the Southeast Asian region, like Malaysia which has Petronas; and then Indonesia has Pertamina, among others.

PNOC-EC itself has been lining up several oil and gas exploration ventures, but it indicated that it will need technically experienced and deep-pocketed partners so it can advance developments of production fields in case the explored blocks would yield commercial discovery.

Its parent firm PNOC is studying options on whether or not it is prudent to buy the 45-percent stake being unloaded by Shell in the Malampaya field, but Gatchalian pointed out the state-run firm may not have the requisite technical know-how to take over the operations of the field.

Just recently, the government-run firm also targeted to venture into liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal; but it shelved that goal following the Department of Energy’s (DOE) decision that it will take upon itself to accredit private entities to undertake such projects.

But this week, it revived that plan again through a targeted joint venture with American energy company New Fortress Energy LLC, which is into supply chain ventures in the LNG sector.