PBBM: Gov’t must look beyond Beijing to tap WPS for energy reserves
The Philippines is finding ways to explore for oil and gas in the South China Sea even without a deal with China, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said Friday, adding that the country has the right to exploit energy reserves in the contested waterway.
In August, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo said Manila was open to new talks with China on oil and gas exploration, but said any deal must comply with Philippine laws.
But on Friday, the President said the Philippines could veer away from government-to-government discussions in favor of partnerships with private companies.
“The Philippines was saying that our laws must be followed, while the Chinese were saying, ‘No, that’s ours so our laws are what we must follow,” the President said.
“That’s the roadblock, it is hard to see how we can resolve that. I think there might be other ways so it does not have to be [government-to-government].”
“The Philippines has actually worked with many partners before but the negotiations with China were halted due to the latter’s claim on the disputed territorial waters,” Mr. Marcos said.
“That’s a big thing for us, that is why we need to fight (for what is ours) and take advantage if there really is oil there,” the President said when asked if the country has already partnered with China, the United States or Australia to explore the West Philippine Sea for oil and gas.
He said talks over joint energy exploration between Manila and Beijing in the South China Sea had been terminated by the previous government in June, citing constitutional constraints and issues of sovereignty.
The Philippines relies heavily on imported fuel for its energy needs, making it vulnerable to supply shocks and rising oil prices, which have helped push up inflation to a near 14-year high.
The President said the Philippines needs the energy from the West Philippine Sea more now than China.
In November 2018, the Philippines signed a memorandum of understanding with China on joint oil and gas development in the West Philippine Sea.
However, the Duterte administration terminated the talks on June 30 because of constitutional constraints and disagreements over sovereignty.
The Department of Foreign Affairs in September this year said the two countries have so far made “initial and general discussions” on possible joint exploration, but said these have not progressed to “working-level talks.”
On July 12, 2016, the Philippines won its petition against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands after the court invalidated Beijing’s expansive claims over nearly the entire South China Sea, including the West Philippine Sea.
China has repeatedly refused to recognize the PCA decision.
China reinforced its stance by building artificial islands over some contested reefs and installing weapons on them.
Mr. Marcos earlier said the Philippines would use the Hague ruling to assert its territorial rights.
In October, in the face of rising world oil prices, he said the government would revive the oil drilling operations of Nido Petroleum Philippines in Palawan.
He added that the Cadlao oil field could lead to early oil production towards the second half of 2023. The area last produced oil in the 1990s with over 11 million barrels, he said.