A lawmaker recently filed a resolution seeking an inquiry on the oil drilling explorations being conducted in the Sulu Sea to ensure the active participation of the people of Sulu in the cited project.
Rep. Tupay Loong of Sulu, in House Resolution 217, sought the conduct of the said inquiry on the drilling being conducted by Exxon Exploration and Production Philippines B.V. of its exploration well in the Sulu Sea under the Department of Energy (DOE) Service Contract-56 (SC-56).
The said exploration is now on its third phase.
Loong said the Sulu Sea is part of the territorial waters and national patrimony of Sulu, which is part of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). He said any contract entered into by the national government pertaining to the Sulu Sea should involve the people of Sulu.
He noted that Republic Act 9054, the organic act of the ARMM, provides that the people of the Sulu Archipelago should be given the opportunity to participate in decision-making.
“Thus, the province of Sulu and its people clamor for an inquiry whether they have an active involvement in the forging of SC-56 to its implementation,” Loong said.
Loong said with oil spills happening in different parts of the world, most recent of which occurred in Rosario, Cavite, in Manila Bay, the people of Sulu are apprehensive about the possibility of a similar incident in the South Sulu Sea that can cause irreversible damage to the ecological system therein and the possible deterioration of the source of income of the people in the area.
“The service contracts of the oil exploration of the Sulu Sea should be scrutinized as to whether or not contingency plans that will prevent such an occurrence are provided therein, and its impact on our ecology and the cost of possible destruction of our biodiversity vis-à-vis its real contribution to the economic growth and general welfare of the country, especially to the people of Sulu,” he said.
Moreover, Loong said it is necessary to probe the standards laid down by the DOE on the set-up and implementation of Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE) Plan by service contractors of the drilling exploration of the Sulu Sea.
“Hence it is necessary to inquire into the oil drilling explorations conducted at the Sulu Sea to ensure active participation of the people of Sulu, and protect and preserve our rich biodiversity without sacrificing real contributions to our economic growth and general welfare,” said Loong.
The DOE earlier said that SC-56 is part of the government’s efforts to encourage investments in the energy sector leading to energy security for the country. The exploration phase will be undertaken at no cost to the country, with all the risks borne by the contractors, ExxonMobil, Mitra and BHB Billiton.