The Energy department is optimistic that an exploration contract shelved in the wake of a territorial dispute with China will finally get under way.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said told reporters on Wednesday that he had asked the Office of the President to approve Service Contract No. 57, which covers an area off Palawan that was awarded to state-owned Philippine National Oil Co.-Exploration Corp. (PNOC-EC) in 2005.
“We have already finished the documentation, the contract and presented it already” to President Rodrigo Duterte, Cusi said.
While the area isn’t part of disputed territory in the South China Sea, the previous administration sat on the matter as it pursued a case against China before an international tribunal.
The Philippines won the case but the current government has declined to press the issue in favor of courting Beijing for increased investments and aid.
SC 57, jointly held by CNOOC, PNOC-EC, and Mitra Energy Ltd. (MITRA), covers a total area of 7,120 sq. km. some 50 kilometers northwest of the tip of Busuanga Island.
Final approval of the contract is needed, Cusi said, given the significance of energy in the country’s development activities.
The previous government imposed a moratorium on oil exploration activities in disputed waters and Cusi said the current administration was “still studying the ways we are going to lift [it].
“I don’t like to create any speculations. We have not reached any agreement,” he said, noting that five service contracts have been affected by the moratorium.
Philippine and Chinese officials, meanwhile, will be meeting this Thursday to discuss bilateral exploration activities, Cusi said.