DOE: Gas find within Phl territory

- Delon Porcalla () - November 14, 2011 - 12:00am

HONOLULU – Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras confirmed here yesterday that a new natural gas find off Palawan would indeed dwarf the Malampaya oil fields.

Almendras clarified, however, that the find is well within Philippine territory and not in the disputed Spratly Islands.

“We just want to clarify that the President was referring to the Recto Bank (in Palawan), which is not part of the Spratly Islands,” Almendras told Manila-based reporters in a press briefing at the Ala Moana Hotel here.

The northern part of the Philippines that President Aquino was referring to during the panel discussion with chief executive officers at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation was actually “northern part of Palawan,” not north of Luzon as implied earlier.

Almendras explained Recto Bank is located within 80 nautical miles of the Philippines and more than 500 miles away from China. The Forum Energy Plc of the UK would undertake the oil exploration.

Almendras said his clarification would help prevent a misunderstanding with other nations like Malaysia and Vietnam that signed an agreement not to touch or develop any part of the disputed Spratlys.

“We don’t want to create a scenario that may project that we are not abiding (by) the agreement. We will honor the agreements,” Almendras said.

He added that oil explorations would be pursued but only in Recto bank, which as far as the Philippines is concerned is within the country’s jurisdiction.

Aquino is determined to develop the newfound site in accordance with the existing international laws.

“We are working on steps to determine if they actually own them consistent with United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea,” he said.

Aquino earlier revealed here before a crowd of chief executive officers that the government has found a new site that will “dwarf” the reported gas deposits in Malampaya oil fields in Palawan.

“There are substantial gas deposits that we believe are already on the proven scale at this point in time will dwarf the existing Malampaya oil fields,” Aquino declared in a panel discussion that delved on energy security.

Aquino, however, did not mention where the site is, except in saying that “there is a new field that is gonna be brought up, or is gonna start I understand by next year (2012) by an American company in the northern portion of the Philippines.” 

He hinted, however, that explorations in this area may not be that simple, borne out of territorial concerns, like the issues over the exclusive 200-mile zone, where the Philippines should have unbridled access.

“Some of them are in areas that are part of the contentious disputes as to the sovereignty over the same and we are working on steps to determine if they actually own them consistent with United Nations Convention on Law of the Sea,” Aquino pointed out.

The Malampaya project employs state-of-the-art deepwater technology to draw natural gas from deep beneath Philippine waters. The indigenous gas fuels natural gas-fired power stations in the country, by way of generating capacity of megawatts.

Since October 2001, the Philippines has been importing less fuel for power generation, providing the country foreign-exchange savings and energy security from this clean fuel.

Natural gas has the least CO2 among fossil fuels and is more efficient than other sources of power like coal and crude oil.

Aquino said the Philippines would not have shortage in its energy requirements.

“We have a very vibrant renewable energy sector. At the end of the day, the first phases, the abundance of electrical supply then we have wholesale electronic spot market that is supposed to induce competition that will bring down the rates,” he said.

Aquino said his government is determined to make power rates “more reasonable” and that they are also in the process of transporting the country’s transport sector to have less dependence on diesel, and avail of natural gas instead.

“We have these resources that will benefit not only our country but also the neighbors in the region, and will transform our energy needs from dependence on Middle East to the present time to more indigenous sources,” he said.

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