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Philippine gov’t to coordinate oil, gas exploration activities

Publication Date : 19-07-2012


The Philippines' Department of Energy is mandating firms looking for oil and gas near the West Philippine Sea to coordinate with the government prior to conducting any activity within the disputed waters.

At the sidelines of a geothermal seminar hosted by the New Zealand Embassy yesterday, Energy Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras said the directive was meant to ensure that the agencies securing Philippine waters would be able to identify locally deployed vessels and ensure the safety and security of the country’s oil and gas exploration activities.

“What we’ve actually requested from those who are [conducting exploration activities] in the West Philippine Sea—not just the Service Contract 72 consortium, but all the other oil and gas exploration companies there—is for better coordination with us,” Almendras explained.

The affected firms are to make their respective disclosures 90 days prior to drilling and exploration activities. The government is studying whether or not it should issue a circular, order or any supplemental policy for the directive.

“We want to make sure that all parties who are supposed to be in charge know what exactly is being undertaken in the West Philippine Sea. We want our service contractors to be able to perform their work obligations and commitments,” Layug said. “It is really an offshoot of our efforts to reinvigorate petroleum exploration in the Philippines.”

“We will have a dialogue with the service contractors [today] to assess how to operationalise the prior notice/approval requirement. When Executive Order 60 was issued, what we aspired for is a more coordinated government action in relation to activities of petroleum service contractors,” he further explained.

EO 60, which was issued in September 2011, amended EO 254 and reorganised and renamed the Philippine Gas Project Task Force to the Philippine Upstream Petroleum Task Force.

Both Almendras and Layug said the bidding for the three oil and gas areas in Northwest Palawan would push through on July 31.

At least three consortia are expected to vie for the blocks, which are believed to be the most prolific among the 15 areas being offered by the government under the Philippine Energy Contracting Round 4.

Companies affected by the directive are those working within the Recto Bank like Forum Energy Plc, which is majority-owned by Manuel Pangilinan-led Philex Mining Corp., as well as those within Northwest Palawan, namely BHP Billiton, Nido Petroleum and Otto Energy.

Energy Undersecretary Jose M. Layug pointed out that such a mandate already existed, except that it would now be implemented more stringently following increasing tensions at the West Philippine Sea between the Philippines and China.


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