DOE to DFA: Lift oil exploration ban in West Philippine Sea

By on January 7, 2019

Exploration and drilling activities in the West Philippine Sea are close resuming after the Department of Energy (DOE) asked the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to lift the moratorium covering the disputed waters.

The DOE has sent a letter requesting the DFA to lift the ban in contested off-the-coast territories, Energy Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella told reporters on the sidelines of a press conference in Taguig City on Thursday.

The request was triggered by a letter from Forum Energy Ltd. on lifting the force majeure imposed on Service Contract 72 in Reed Bank, GMA News reported.

“Kasi may request na ‘yung PXP na i-lift ‘yung force majeure … The application of PXP is specific case sa kanilang service contract and they want it lifted,” Fuentebella said.

Pangilinan-led PXP Energy holds a 77.5 percent controlling stake in Forum Energy, which in turn holds 70 percent interest in SC 72.

While Forum Energy’s request is specific to its service contract, the Energy department wants the moratorium lifted from the entire West Philippine Sea.

“For the entirety ‘yung recommendation natin,” Fuentebella said.

Amid rising geopolitical tensions between Manila and Beijing, the Aquino administration issued a moratorium on all exploration and drilling activities covering the disputed West Philippine Sea.

The DOE declared Reed Bank in force majeure in 2014. The declaration suspended oil drilling and exploration activities in the area.

SC 72’s Sampaguita Gas Field holds substantial volume of potential gas reserves, according to PXP, citing verified data from seismic surveys originally conducted in 2011.

“The force majeure is triggered by that moratorium … Ang lifting naman, it will depend now on the DFA kung it will be total or specific cases only,” Fuentebella said.

The Energy official said it is high time to resume exploration and drilling activities in the West Philippine Sea after the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Philippines and China on joint exploration for oil and gas in the West Philippines Sea during the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping on November 20.

“The agreement with China is that, number one, it should be in accordance with international laws, rules. Number two, it should be compliant with municipal laws, 1987 Constitution, and their law,” Fuentebella said.

The DOE is pushing for energy security as the Philippine economy expands.

“Energy security talaga ‘yung ating issue because we have to explore some more,” Fuentebella said.

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