PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has approved the recommendation of the Department of Energy to lift the moratorium on petroleum exploration and drilling in the disputed South China Sea, the Department of Energy (DOE) said on Thursday.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the lifting of the moratorium also gave full regard to the ongoing negotiations between Forum Ltd. and the China National Offshore Corp. (CNOOC).
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin, who recently made an official visit to China to boost the Philippines’ ties with that country, was informed of the development.
“The oasis of peace that the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs envision must also be an oasis of prosperity. For this to happen, the Philippines must restart its economy using the engine of energy resiliency and security,” Cusi said in a letter to Locsin.
“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 (exclusive economic zone) to ensure continuity of supply of indigenous resources in the country,” Cusi said.
The DOE said earlier that the Malampaya gas field has reserves good until 2027.
The lifting of the moratorium has allowed the DOE to issue a “Resume-to-Work” notice to the entities handling Service Contracts (SC) 59, 72, and 75.
SCs 59 and 72 are operated by the Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corp. (PNOC-EC) and Forum Ltd., respectively. PXP Energy Corp. operates SC 75.
Cusi said the lifting of the moratorium will generate direct foreign investments for the petroleum industry, and generate more jobs, which will help the country’s economy recover from the battering it got from the coronavirus pandemic.
“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,” he said.
It was during the administration of former president Benigno Aquino that a moratorium on exploration and drilling activities in the South China Sea was enforced due to the maritime dispute in the said waters.