Resume oil exploration projects, govt urged

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Rep. Johnny Pimentel of Surigao del Sur’s second district urged the Department of Energy (DOE) to reactivate oil and gas exploration ventures in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) that were temporarily suspended last year while the arbitration case that the country lodged against China was pending before an international tribunal at The Hague in The Netherlands.

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“It is in the national interest that we renew forthwith the quest for new deep-water natural gas deposits because Malampaya, which supplies some 40 percent of Luzon’s power demand, might be depleted within the next decade,” Pimentel, a member of the House Committee on National Defense and Security, said in a statement.

The DOE, he said, put on hold three offshore oil and gas exploration activities regarding Service Contracts (SCs) 58, 72 and 75. SC 72 covers the Reed Bank or Recto Bank, which is believed to be holding the bulk of the disputed waters’ estimated 55.1 trillion cubic feet of gas and 5.4 billion barrels of oil reserves based on a study conducted by the US Energy Information Administration.

SC 72 covers 880,000 hectares; SC 75, 616,000 hectares; and SC 58 covers 1.34 million hectares. SC 72 is operated and 70 percent held by Forum Energy Plc with Monte Oro Resources and Energy Inc. as partner. Forum is owned by PXP Energy Corp. with Tidemark Holdings Ltd. as minority partner while Monte Oro is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Apex Mining Co. Inc.

PXP Energy runs SC 75 with the state-owned PNOC Exploration Corp. and PetroEnergy Resources Corp. as partners, while SC 58 is operated by Nido Petroleum Ltd. which is controlled by Bangchak Petroleum Public Co. Ltd. of Thailand.

“It’s high time to allow the resumption of the stalled projects, considering the arbitral tribunal’s verdict that the areas involved are well within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone, as defined by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea,” Pimentel said.

“We expect the DOE to revoke the suspension orders issued against the projects, while the Philippine government pursues strong and effective diplomacy with China,” he added.

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