DoE backs Palace position on disputed waters

PHILSTAR

THE DEPARTMENT of Energy (DoE) said it “stands firmly” behind any decision by President Rodrigo R. Duterte on asserting the Philippines’ licensing authority over resources in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

In a statement Wednesday, the DoE said it “supports the President’s statement regarding the defense of the resources of the Philippine seabed and subsoil, as this is in accordance with the Constitution and our petroleum laws,” Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi said.

Under the law, the government through the DoE can issue licenses to drill within its territory, including islands, internal waters, its territorial sea, exclusive economic zone, and continental shelf.

“Should any foreign state engage in petroleum activities inside the Philippine petroleum jurisdiction, the DoE shall take the necessary steps to protect our licensees and preserve our resources,” Mr. Cusi said.

He added that the department will defer to the President’s prerogative on “any security option,” and conform to decisions made by the foreign affairs department in the negotiation of oil and gas collaboration with China.

Mr. Duterte said Wednesday that the WPS disputes risk escalation, including a resort to the use of force. “But at what cost will that be for the country?… I am addressing myself to the Chinese government. We want to remain friends.”

“I don’t think there’s enough fish really to be worried about but when we start to mine, when we start to get whatever it is in the bowels of the China Sea, sa atin oil, diyan na ako. (The oil is ours)… Pag kinuha na ‘yung oil, kung anong mga nickel diyan and precious stones, (if they get the oil, nickel and precious stones) that would be the time, because that is the time that we should act on it,” he added.

In October, Mr. Duterte approved the DoE’s recommendation to lift the suspension of petroleum exploration activities in the WPS. The department has said it had issued a “resume to work” notice to service contractors exploring the areas under service contracts (SCs) 59, 72, and 75. These activities were suspended due to the WPS dispute.

SCs 59 and 72 are operated by the Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corp. and Forum Ltd., respectively. Meanwhile, PXP Energy Corp. operates SC 75.

Mr. Cusi has said the lifting of the moratorium on WPS exploration will help the country’s economic recovery since the “resumption of work will infuse the economy with fresh investment and generate high-skill employment opportunities.” — Angelica Y. Yang