Gov’t urged to explore Reed Bank gas field
NAGA CITY — Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has called on the government to take advantage of an international tribunal’s decision favoring the country’s claim to the West Philippine Sea by exploring another gas field and replacing the diminishing Malampaya gas stock.
Carpio, in a forum at Ateneo de Naga University on Nov. 24, said the only way to sustain the power supply of the Luzon grid — 40 percent of which comes from Malampaya — was to explore for natural gas and oil deposits in Reed Bank, an area also claimed by China.
Depleted in 10 years
Carpio said Malampaya’s gas stock would be depleted in less than 10 years.
“We have not started. The window of opportunity is closing on us. We have now less than 10 years away,” Carpio warned.
Reed Bank, also known as Recto Bank, is a large tablemount, or isolated underwater volcanic mountain with a flat top, located near the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.
Through seismic surveys indicate that Reed Bank is rich in oil and gas deposits, the Philippines had only partly tapped these resources due to rival claims to the area by other countries, particularly China.
According to Carpio, the Philippines has a “legality of ownership” because of the international tribunal’s ruling.
“It is clear now the Reed Bank is ours. If we do not find a replacement for Malampaya, we will have 10 to 12 hours of rotating brownouts in Luzon… factories will close, schools will close, and it will devastate the economy,” Carpio told some 200 forum participants.
Only one Asean claimant
He said he could not understand why President Duterte, in his pronouncements, was saying that other Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) countries were also laying claim to Reed Bank when it was only China, a non-Asean nation, that had expressed its intent to claim the area.
“There is only one Asean claimant—the Philippines. Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei are not claiming the Reed Bank. The paramount interest of the Philippines right now is to ensure and find replacement for Malampaya because [the economy will suffer] if we have 10 to 12 hours of rotating brownout,” Carpio said.
He said it would be easier to connect a pipeline to Reed Bank from Malampaya and then connect it to Batangas province, where the gas is distributed to power sources that provide 40 percent of the energy requirement of Luzon.
He said it was doubly hard to import liquefied gas because it was technically difficult to transport and store, unlike the extension of pipes to Reed Bank from Malampaya, which is 57.4 kilometers from Palawan and 953 km from China’s Hainan Island.
Carpio said it took six years to finish the infrastructure of the Malampaya gas fields. —Juan Escandor Jr.
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