President Duterte lifts moratorium on oil exploration in West Philippine Sea

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the recommendation of the Department of Energy (DOE) to lift the suspension of petroleum activities and the resumption of petroleum exploration in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), the DOE said.

“I thank the President for approving the DOE recommendation. We need to explore so we may address the country’s energy security,” Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said.

“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,” Secretary Cusi explained.

Under the “Department of Energy Act of 1992” or Republic Act 7638, the DOE has the authority to regulate the exploration of the country’s indigenous energy resources.

Secretary Cusi said 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. The activities there were suspended on the ground “Force Majeure” due to the WPS dispute.

According to DOE, 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.

“The lifting of the suspension places the service contractors under legal obligation to put capital into the contract areas and hire Filipino engineers and technical workers to resume exploration,” the energy chief said.

Secretary Cusi pointed out that the lifting of the moratorium was arrived at in good faith and with full regard of the ongoing negotiations between the Philippines and China, and Forum Ltd. and the China National Offshore Corp. (CNOOC).

“The oasis of peace that the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs and the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs envision must also be an oasis of prosperity. For this to happen, the Philippines must restart its economy using the engine of energy resiliency and security,” He said in a letter to Secretary Locsin.