Gov't to continue pursuing talks with service contract holders on WPS exploration — DOE

Angelica Y. Yang - Philstar.com
Gov't to continue pursuing talks with service contract holders on WPS exploration â DOE
This handout satellite imagery taken on March 23, 2021 and received on March 25 from Maxar Technologies shows Chinese vessels anchored at the Whitsun Reef, around 320 kilometres (175 nautical miles) west of Bataraza in Palawan in the South China Sea. Chinese vessels gathered near a disputed reef in the South China Sea are "fishing boats" sheltering from poor weather, the foreign ministry said March 22, a day after the Philippines described their presence as an incursion.
AFP / Satellite image ©2021 Maxar Technologies, Handout

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Energy (DOE) said Saturday that the government will continue to pursue talks with companies holding service contracts in exploring the West Philippine Sea. This comes shortly after the Philippines terminated joint energy exploration negotiations with China. 

Several companies, including the state-run Philippine National Oil Co. Exploration Corp., Nido Petroleum Philippines, Forum Ltd. and PXP Energy Corp., hold service contracts to explore oil and gas deposits in the West Philippine Sea, as of November 2021. 

"The DOE, in coordination with the SJPCC (Security, Justice and Peace Cabinet Cluster) for safety and security concerns, continues to pursue talks with existing service contract holders so they can proceed with their work programs," the DOE said in a statement on Saturday. 

"The DOE firmly stands for the assertion of Philippine sovereign rights through the promotion of exploration in the WPS (West Philippine Sea)," it added.

The department has been promoting exploration in the area through its Philippine Conventional Energy Program, which issues licenses for identified petroleum blocks which companies bid for. 

In March this year, the SJPCC ordered a halt in oil and gas exploration activities in the West Philippine Sea, which is within the country's exclusive economic zone but is being claimed by China. The Cabinet cluster cited China's harassment of a survey vessel and ongoing negotiations as among the reasons for the suspension. 

Four years ago, the Philippines entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with China to cooperate on oil and gas development in the West Philippine Sea. 

Both countries have been locked in a terrotorial dispute over areas of the South China Sea which China claims it has exclusive rights to. 

China has consistently refused to honor the 2016 landmark ruling of the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, which did not find any legal basis for its historic claim through its so-called nine-dash line that covers majority or 80% of the maritime waters in the Philippines' EEZ, known as the West Philippine Sea. 

Earlier this month, the country filed two protests against China for several maritime incidents, including the return of over 100 Chinese vessels which illegally operated on Julian Felipe reef and illegal fishing activities in Ayungin Shoal. 







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