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MVP on resuming exploration works on WPS: Who will protect us?

On the heels of the Philippines’ termination of joint oil and gas negotiations with China, businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan has expressed interest to continue exploration activities in the West Philippine Sea (WPS).

However, Pangilinan is seeking assurance of government protection should foreign forces assert claim on the disputed waters.

“Even with the best of intentions on our part, because we want to continue with our work program precisely to determine if there’s gas in WPS. But if outside forces will stop us, what should we do? Who will protect us? We are a private sector company,” Pangilinan told reporters in a chance interview.

Pangilinan’s upstream oil and gas company PXP Energy Corp. holds a 50% interest in Service Contract (SC) 75 in northwest Palawan, while London-listed Forum Energy—in which PXP has about 79% interest—has a 70% participating interest in SC 72 in the Reed Bank.

“It’s easy enough to say if we have a committed work program, as we do, to the government. As recently as April this year, we have several boats out there — non-combatant boats doing survey works to determine where to drill, where to work on, and identify suitable sites to work on,” he said.

In April this year, however, the Department of Energy (DOE) ordered PXP to “put on hold all exploration activities for SC 75 and SC 72 until such time that the Security, Justice and Peace Coordinating Cluster (SJPCC) has issued the necessary clearance to proceed,” despite the lifting of moratorium of petroleum-related activities in the WPS in October 2020 due to the harassment of the survey vessels hired by the service contractors and the negotiations with China.

Over the weekend, the DOE confirmed the Cabinet-level SJPCC terminated the joint oil and gas negotiations with China. The SJPCC is composed of the secretary of National Defense as chair and the secretaries of the Interior and Local Government, Foreign Affairs, Justice, as well as the executive secretary, national security adviser, and presidential adviser on the peace process as members.

“Following the SJPCC’s suspension order and now with the termination of negotiations with China, the DOE, in coordination with the SJPCC for safety and security concerns, continues to pursue talks with existing service contract holders so they can proceed with their work programs,” the Energy department said.

With this, Pangilinan hopes that PXP can move forward with its exploration activities as “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.”

GMA News Online reached out to the DOE for comment on Pangilinan's statement.

China aggressively claims almost the entire South China, parts of which overlaps with the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

The DOE earlier said there could be millions of barrels of oil and natural gas reserves in the West Philippine Sea.—AOL, GMA News