PXP Energy Corp. will need protection from the government if it resumes oil and gas exploration in the disputed waters of the West Philippine Sea (WPS), its chairman said on Monday.
“Even with the best of intentions on our part, because we want to continue with our work program precisely to determine once and for all if there’s gas in the area, eh kung pipigilan ka naman ng outside forces, anong magagawa namin? (if outside forces stop us, what can we do?),” Manuel V. Pangilinan told reporters on Monday.
“Who will protect us? We are a private sector company. Those boats are leased by us, those are not Filipino-registered boats,” he added.
PXP Energy and its subsidiary Forum (GSEC 101) Ltd. have put on hold activities for two petroleum exploration service contracts as directed by the Energy department until the issuance of the “necessary clearance to proceed.”
PXP Energy is the operator under Service Contract (SC) 75 and Forum is the operator under SC 72.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. last week announced the termination of joint oil and gas negotiations with China.
“We need to determine whether there’s gas in the area because it’s very important to the country especially because of what’s happening in the country if we really mean to attain some degree of energy independence,” Mr. Pangilinan said.
SC 75 was awarded by the Department of Energy (DoE) on Dec. 27, 2013 and covers an area of 6,160 square kilometers in the offshore northwest Palawan basin.
On Sept. 9, 2015, the department granted force majeure to SC 75’s work commitments effective December of that year until the DoE notifies PXP Energy to resume its petroleum exploration-related activities.
“If there’s no gas there, maybe the degree of difficulty will be lessened. Kung walang pag-aawayan, eh di (If there’s nothing to dispute about then) we assert. If China wishes to assert, eh di ganon na lang. Pero kung may energy doon, dapat pag-usapan, (then that’s it. But if there’s energy there, then we need to talk) whoever with — foreign partners, China,” Mr. Pangilinan said.
“As recent as April this year, we have several boats out there. Non-combatant boats doing survey works, principally with ecological objectives in mind to determine where to drill, where to work on, and identify suitable site to work on,” he added.
Mr. Locsin noted that despite attempts to reconcile issues in the disputed sea, not much has changed.
“I tried for three years to come to an agreement to facilitate exploration for and exploitation of oil and gas in the West Philippine Sea,” he said in a speech, referring to areas of the waterway within the country’s exclusive economic zone. “We got as far as it is constitutionally possible to go.” — Arjay L. Balinbin