Philippines lifts West Philippine Sea oil exploration ban
The natural gas deposits of the Malampaya field are expected to run out by 2024.
Philstar.com, file

Philippines lifts West Philippine Sea oil exploration ban

(Philstar.com) - October 15, 2020 - 9:15pm

MANILA, Philippines — Upon the recommendation of the Department of Energy, President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the lifting of the moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi on Thursday confirmed that Duterte approved the recommendation, which would mean the resumption of petroleum exploration in the West Philippine Sea.

"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 in a statement.

The DOE has issued a "resume-to-work" notice to service contractors in the areas of service contract (SC) 59, 72 and 75 in the West Philippine Sea, according to Cusi.

The Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corp. operates SC 59, Forum Ltd. operates SC 72 and PXP Energy Corp operates SC 75.

"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," Cusi said.

The energy secretary added that the lifting of the moratorium would "infuse" the economy with fresh foreign direct investments.

Cusi has informed Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. of Duterte approval of lifting the ban.

The Philippines has long been in talks with China, which claims indisputable sovereignty over the South China Sea, for a possible joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea.

In May, Cusi said he wants to further discuss joint exploration efforts in the West Philippine Sea with his Chinese counterparts.

The COVID-19 pandemic, however, stalled the visit of Chinese officials to the Philippines. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

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