Philippine and Chinese energy officials have set a bilateral meeting on Thursday to discuss the joint development in the West Philippine Sea, an official said Wednesday.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said both sides have not yet reached any agreement and that the possibility of lifting the moratorium on exploration in the West Philippine Sea is still being studied.
"We have five pending service contracts and we are still studying the ways we are going to lift the moratorium order. But I do not like to create any speculation. We have not reached any agreement," he said.
Cusi said Service Contract 57, which covers offshore Northwest Palawan or west of Calamian islands, is already with the Office of the President for signature so that exploration work could begin. He said SC 57 is within the Philippine territory.
The service contract has been pending since 2005 but was delayed due to administrative issues. According to the contract, China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) farmed-in into SC 57 in 2006 acquiring 51 percent participating interest and operatorship. The deed of assignment to formalize its entry has yet to be signed by the President.
"We have SC 57 that is already with the Office of the President so that we can pursue its exploration work," Cusi said.
"We have already finished the documentation, the contract and it's presented already to the Office of the President for signing."
Energy Undersecretary Donato Marcos meanwhile stressed there is no sovereignty issue involved in SC 57 as it is not within the disputed area of the West Philippine Sea.
"It's not a joint exploration actually because it's a current service contracted granted by the Department of Energy to Pnoc Exploration Corporation (PNOC EC), then it's a 100 hundred percent owned by PNOC EC. Ngayon mag fafarm-in si CNOOC. So sovereignty here is not an issue. Besides, it's not within the disputed area of the West Philippine Sea," Marcos said.
On Thursday, energy ministers of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will meet with their counterparts from China, South Korea, Japan, as well as New Zealand, Australia, India, US and Russia, all of whom are expected to present recommendations on how to achieve the objectives of the ASEAN Plan of Action for Energy Cooperation.