State-owned PNOC Exploration Corp. revived its interest to explore the oil and gas potential of the Liguasan Marsh in Mindanao, a top executive said last week.
“We are very interested upon this. We continue to have studies and dual partnership with the academe and some of our proponents in order to undertake onshore development and using the newer methods and technologies, so we can reduce our negative impact to the environment,” PNOC EC president Rozzano Briguez said during the virtual Philippine Energy Transition Forum on Thursday.
The forum was organized by the Philippine Energy Independence Council and the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.
Liguasan Marsh has about 200,000 hectares of dry and wet basins bounded by the Mindanao River in south-central Mindanao, North Cotabato and South Cotabato provinces. It is reported to be rich in oil and gas deposits. About 30,000 hectares of the marsh was declared a game refuge and bird sanctuary in 1979.
“We will start with Sultan Kudarat’s portion of the Liguasan Marsh first and then let the policies on BARMM and DOE [government] be sorted out before we will eventually explore the area,” Briguez said.
PNOC-EC, the upstream oil, gas and coal unit of PNOC, earlier teamed up with Petronas of Malaysia to develop the Liguasan Marsh but the joint venture halted operations because of losses and the peace and order situation in the area.
PNOC-EC is mandated by the Department of Energy to take the lead in the exploration, development and production of the country’s oil, gas and coal resources.
It drilled two onshore exploratory wells in the area since 1999 with a “mind boggling” oil and gas potential, according to a former official.
President Rodrigo Duterte announced in 2019 that the Moro government should take the lead in developing the Liguasan Marsh.
Republic Act 11054, or the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, states the autonomous region and the national government should co-manage any proceeds from recovery efforts for “fossil fuels such as petroleum, natural gas and coal.”
Duterte told Muslim leaders in 2018 the government would not take the Liguasan Marsh but taxes should be paid.
“It will remain in your control and possession, but you just have to pay the taxes and the service that the government will spend. I promise you, and that’s my commitment: It belongs to the Moro people,” Duterte said.