The Department of Energy said Wednesday it is prepared to take steps to protect the rights of service contract holders and preserve the country’s resources in the West Philippine Sea.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the department would stand firmly behind any decision and action of President Rodrigo Duterte regarding the assertion of the exclusive licensing authority of the Philippines over petroleum and other resources in the seabed and subsoil of the West Philippine Sea.
Cusi issued the statement to support the President’s statement on the defense of the resources of the Philippine seabed and subsoil in accordance with the Constitution and petroleum laws.
“Under our laws, only the Philippine government, through the DOE, may issue licenses to drill in Philippine land territory, including its islands, internal waters, territorial sea, exclusive economic zone and continental shelf,” he said.
“Should any foreign state engage in petroleum activities inside the Philippine petroleum jurisdiction, the DOE shall take the necessary steps to protect our licensees and preserve our resources. It shall defer to the sole prerogative of the President regarding any security option,” Cusi said.
The energy chief said DOE would also conform to any decision that the Department of Foreign Affairs might take regarding the ongoing informal negotiations on oil and gas cooperation with China.
“Meanwhile, the DOE continues to develop the uncontested Philippine EEZ and continental shelf through the resumption of petroleum operations by our licensees and the award of new petroleum areas. The Philippines remains in business, COVID-19 and China, notwithstanding,” Cusi said.
Cusi also asked service contract holders to proceed with their commitments following the lifting of the oil and gas exploration moratorium over the West Philippine Sea and the issuance of the notice to resume work in affected service contracts.
He said earlier that the lifting of the moratorium on oil and gas exploration activities in the West Philippine Sea would not affect the ongoing talks between the Philippines and China for possible joint exploration in the area.
The Philippines and China previously held talks for possible joint exploration development over the West Philippine Sea but negotiations were suspended amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“There is no prohibition in doing it unilaterally. We can do it and what we have done is a unilateral decision on our part to ask those licensees to start their activities in the West Philippine Sea,” Cusi said.
He said that with the impending depletion of the 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.”