Even with President Rodrigo Duterte singing a different tune that he can no longer take back territories claimed by China, the Department of Energy (DOE) stated that it is bent on awarding more petroleum service contracts at blocks straddled by disputed territories within the West Philippine Sea.
“The DOE has been busy seeking investors into petroleum blocks in the West Philippine Sea,” Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi has specified in his statement to the media.
He added that aside from the service contracts already awarded, the energy department is still
processing several new applications for prospective oil/gas exploration and development ventures in that diplomatically strained domain.
Former Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio sounded off in media interviews this week that with the government’s pronouncements generally leaning on relinquishing its sovereign rights at the disputed territories already occupied by China, even the development of the country’s oil and gas resources would be in peril.
But Cusi said the intent of the moratorium lifting last year was primarily to strengthen the country’s rights over its indigenous resources – and for these to be explored and developed within the bounds of Philippine laws.
“I think that is exactly what the government did when, in October last year, we lifted the moratorium and ordered the resumption of the petroleum activities in several license areas that have been dormant for many years because of unjust moratorium,” Cusi stressed.
With the lifting of the moratorium, holders of petroleum service contracts for blocks within or close to the disputed areas had already been given go-signal to resume their work programs – and these included Udenna Energy Corporation of Davao businessman Dennis Uy; the PXP Energy Corporation of tycoon Manuel V. Pangilinan as well as that of state-run Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation.
The DOE has not given the names of investors with service contract applications-on-process yet, but it was hinted that some of these were submissions from last year.
Pangilinan-led PXP Energy, in particular, is targeting re-entry at its Service Contracts 72 and 75 in Northwest Palawan basin, but details on its extended seismic activities and well drilling plans are still being sorted with the DOE.
And with that easing of policy, the long planned partnership of state-run PNOC-EC with China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) at Service Contract (SC) 57 at northwest Palawan acreage has also been targeted to advance; as well as the tie-up of PNOC-EC with Spanish firm Repsol for SC 59 for a petroleum block in Southwest Palawan.
Uy’s Udenna Energy is relatively a ‘new entrant’ in oil ad gas exploration ventures in the country, and it just won bids for two areas to do seismic and exploration activities at the West Philippine Sea.
Until now though, the upstream petroleum investors with service contracts have yet to make formal declaration on the resumption of their respective work programs –and a target to drill the first oil well under the Duterte administration has yet to be concretized.