Duterte lifts oil exploration moratorium in West Philippine Sea
MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte has lifted the moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea, the Department of Energy (DOE) said Thursday.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said in a statement that a “resume to work” notice was issued by the DOE to the Service Contractors doing petroleum-related activities in the areas of SC 59, 72, and 75 in the West Philippine Sea.
SCs 59 and 72 are operated by the Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corp. (PNOC-EC) and Forum Ltd., respectively. Meanwhile, PXP Energy Corp. operates SC 75.
“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 to ensure continuity of supply of indigenous resources in the country,” Cusi said.
The Aquino administration issued a moratorium on all exploration and drilling activities covering the disputed West Philippine Sea in 2014 amid rising geopolitical tensions between the Philippines and China.
Duterte’s pivot to China enabled the signing of a memorandum of understanding between Manila and Beijing for a joint oil and gas exploration deal in the West Philippine Sea.
Cusi said the lifting of the moratorium was arrived at “in good faith” and with full regard for the ongoing negotiations between the Philippines and China, and Forum Ltd. and the China National Offshore Corp. (CNOOC).
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China has been pushing for its expansive claims in the South China Sea which overlaps to the Philippine territory.
Beijing has refused to recognize the 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) that invalidated its ambitious nine-dash line feature that virtually owns the entire body of water.
Meanwhile, Duterte has chosen to shelve the PCA ruling in exchange for Chinese economic perks to help fund his administration’s infrastructure projects even as the Asian powerhouse continues its military activities within the Philippine territory.
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