PH-Aussie group to drill for oil west of Palawan


An Australian-Filipino consortium will drill a new deep-water exploratory well in the West Philippine Sea, according to House deputy minority leader Rep. Arnel Ty.

Ty, of the LPGMA party-list, said he is supporting the oil exploration project, which is not in the part of the disputed area of the sea west of the Philippines.

“Fortunately, Service Contract (SC) 55 is not situated in contested territory,” said Ty, a member of the House committee on energy.

The private consortium handling SC 55 will make the initial drilling on Aug. 1, immediately after the arrival on July 31 of the super deep-water drill ship Maersk Venturer.

“We welcome the consortium’s resolve to push through with the drilling of the well, at a time when many oil and gas explorers around the world have abandoned their search for new hydrocarbon deposits amid a 50 percent plunge in oil prices,” Ty said.

He cited the economic value of the West Philippine Sea as the source of most of the country’s productive offshore oil and gas fields, saying the West Philippine Sea has deposits of hydrocarbons that could enable the Philippines to become self-sufficient in its energy requirements.

The SC 55 consortium will spend some $24.5 million (about P1 billion) to drill the well.

The consortium is composed of Australia’s Otto Energy Investments Ltd. (78.18 percent interest), Red Emperor Resources NL (15 percent) and Palawan 55 Exploration and Production Corp. (6.82 percent).

SC 55 is a deep-water block in the southwest Palawan Basin covering an area of 988 hectares.

According to Ty, the Department of Energy has issued a total of 29 SCs allowing private foreign and local firms to explore new oil and gas basins, of which 16 SCs cover offshore areas in northwest, west and southwest Palawan, all within the West Philippine Sea.

Meanwhile, Malacanang yesterday said efforts being made by the Philippines to resolve the territorial disputes in the disputed sea are gaining support.

Malacanang welcomed the statements made by two United States senators recently expressing support for the Philippines in its arbitration case filed against China before an United Nations Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands.

“The statements made by Senators John McCain and Jack Reed have [encouraged] several others [to] express support for our case to seek a peaceful resolution to the West Philippine Sea or South China Sea issue,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr in an interview over state-run radio station dzRB.

Coloma said that earlier, the European Union and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Japan, have all expressed support for the Philippines’ position.

He said Australia has also supported the country’s call for the peaceful resolution of the disputes by following international law.

American Senators John McCain and Jack Reed, chairman and ranking member of the Senate armed services committee, believe Washington should be more open about supporting the Philippines’ arbitration case against China.

In a letter sent to US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter late May, the senators said the American government should impose sanctions on China for its behavior in the East and South China Seas, where it is reclaiming “vast amounts of territory.”

They also asked that China’s invitation to the 2016 Rim of the Pacific military exercises be revoked. The annual exercise, the world’s largest international maritime warfare training exercise, is led by the US and regularly includes China’s rival claimants Japan and the Philippines.

“Given China’s behavior in the past year alone, including its disregard for the interests of our allies, international law and established norms, we do not believe Beijing should have been invited to this prestigious US-led military exercise in 2016,” they said.

As this developed, the move by the Aquino government to reopen Subic as a naval base should be promptly investigated by the Philippine Senate, according to the left-leaning group Bayan.

The group said the lease agreement between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority may just be the first step to implementing the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement between the Philippines and the United States in the former US base.

Under the EDCA, the US is allowed use of existing Philippine military facilities. For the US to be able to fully use Subic for basing and other purposes, there has to be an established Philippine military facility there.

The reopening of Subic, allegedly for Philippine military use, is only the first step in allowing the return of de facto US bases in Olongapo City, the group said.

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