Duterte approves lifting of oil exploration ban in West Philippine Sea

President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendation of the Department of Energy to lift the suspension of petroleum activities and the resumption of exploration in the West Philippine Sea, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said Thursday night.

“I thank the president for approving the DOE recommendation. We need to explore so we may address the country’s energy security," Cusi said.

Under Republic Act 7638 or the "Department of Energy Act of 1992”, the DOE has the authority to regulate the exploration of the country’s indigenous energy resources.  

"With the impending depletion of our natural gas reserve in Malampaya, it is the department’s position that there is an urgent imperative to resume exploration, development, and production activities within our EEZ to ensure continuity of supply of indigenous resources in the country,” Cusi said.

He said a “resume-to-work” notice was issued by the DOE to the service contractors doing petroleum-related activities in the areas of SC 59, 72 and 75 in the West Philippine Sea. The activities there were suspended on the ground “force majeure” over the WPS dispute.

SC 59 and SC 72 are operated by the Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corp. and Forum Ltd., respectively. Meanwhile, PXP Energy Corp. operates SC 75.

Cusi said the lifting of the suspension would infuse the economy with fresh foreign direct investments and generates high-skills jobs, both of which are needed to boost economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The lifting of the suspension places the service contractors under legal obligation to put capital into the contract areas and hire Filipino engineers and technical workers to resume exploration,” he said.

Cusi said he had informed Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin of the president’s approval of the DOE recommendation.

Cusi said the lifting of the moratorium was arrived at in good faith and with full regard of the negotiations between the Philippines and China and Forum Ltd. and the China National Offshore Corp. 

“The oasis of peace that the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs envision must also be an oasis of prosperity. For this to happen, the Philippines must restart its economy using the engine of energy resiliency and security,” Cusi said in a letter to Locsin.

Topics: Duterte , Energy , exploration moratorium , lifting , West Philippine Sea
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