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Joint oil exploration possible if compliant with Constitution â DOE
DOE Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella said both the Philippine and Chinese governments are still in talks for the possible joint exploration in West Philippine Sea.
STAR/File

Joint oil exploration possible if compliant with Constitution – DOE

Danessa Rivera (The Philippine Star) - July 23, 2021 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea will push through only if compliant with the 60-40 ownership rule under the Constitution, the Department of Energy (DOE) said yesterday.

DOE Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella said both the Philippine and Chinese governments are still in talks for the possible joint exploration in West Philippine Sea.

“But as far as our government is concerned... we are bound by the provisions of our Constitution. Meaning to say, we can talk to you, but our rules will be limited by the provisions of the Constitution,” he said during a virtual presser ahead of the State of the Nation Address.

Under the 1987 Constitution, foreign ownership of land and businesses is limited to only 40 percent while 60 percent should be owned exclusively by Filipino citizens or corporations.

Fuentebella said this economic provision should be applied for the joint exploration project.

“If we can move forward, yes, but we have to follow our Constitution,” he said.

“There’s a need to further explore what kind of treaty or agreement we can come up with.”

In April, President Duterte said he was ready to assert the Philippines’ claims if Beijing conducted oil drills in the West Philippine Sea.

Under Philippine laws, licenses to drill in Philippine territory, including its islands, internal waters, territorial sea, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and continental shelf, will only be issued by the government through the DOE.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the agency stands firmly behind any decision and action of President 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.

The possible joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea follows the memorandum of understanding signed by Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping in November 2018.

Both countries have been forming a framework for the joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea in the spirit of cooperation and reaching a common goal of the possibility of joint exploration activities in the disputed waters.

In May last year, Cusi was supposed to meet with his Chinese counterpart to further discuss joint exploration efforts in the West Philippine Sea but the COVID-19 pandemic stalled the visit of Chinese officials to the country.

The Philippine and Chinese officials last held a meeting on joint exploration in December 2019.

The DOE has been pushing for oil and gas exploration and development in the country and launched the Philippine Conventional Energy Contracting Program (PCECP) in November 2018 as part of an intensified thrust to develop the petroleum exploration industry for global competitiveness.

There are only 23 active Petroleum Service Contracts in the country, with the Malampaya Deep Water Gas-to-Power Project as the most successful PSC stemming from the previous Philippine Energy Contracting Round.

Operating since 2001, the Malampaya project supplies fuel to around 40 percent of gas-fired plants in Luzon – the Ilijan, Sta. Rita plant, San Lorenzo, San Gabriel and Avion plants – which supply 3,211 megawatts (MW) to the Luzon grid. – Christina Mendez, Elizabeth Marcelo

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY
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