MANILA - The Department of Energy on Monday clarified that the agreement between Manila and Beijing to cooperate on oil exploration was still preliminary.
Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla said the agreement reached when President Ferdinand Marcos Jr met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing last week was to “resume negotiations, or resume talks.”
“So we do not have any agreement on moving forward yet with the actual, actual carrying out of activities in the Recto Bank. But in the meantime we are proceeding with the oil and gas development in other areas of the country," Lotilla said.
Before the end of former President Rodrigo Duterte’s term, the Philippines pulled out of talks with China to explore and exploit possible oil and gas reserves in the West Philippine Sea.
In June last year, former Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr said the Philippines canceled the talks because the government cannot renounce Constitutional limits.
In December last year, Marcos said that the country needed to find ways to explore for oil in the South China Sea other than government-to-government talks with Beijing, whose sweeping claims to the waterway serve as a "roadblock" in reaching a deal.
In 2016, the Philippines won a ruling from a UN-backed court that invalidated Beijing’s sweeping claims over the South China Sea.
Lotilla meanwhile said nine Chinese firms have “pledged” to invest in the Philippines’ renewable energy sector, the Department of Energy said on Monday.
"They have responded positively to the country’s policy direction on renewable energy," Lotilla said.
The 9 Chinese companies are:
• China Energy International Group (Energy China)
• China Power International Development (CPID)
• SPIC Guangxi Electric Power Company
• China Machinery Engineering Corporation (CMEC)
• China General Nuclear Power Group (CGN)
• China Huadian Engineering Co., Ltd (CHEC)
• China Tianying, Incorporated (CNTY)
• Dajin Heavy Industry Co. (DHI)
• Mingyang Smart Energy Group
The total pledged investments of the Chinese firms was $13.7 billion or more than half of the total $22.8 billion pledges received by Marcos during his state visit to China, the DOE said.
Energy China and SPIC Guangxi are already present in the Philippines. The DOE said their investments in renewable energy could help the country achieve its goal of increasing renewables share in the overall energy mix to 50 percent by 2040.
A total of 52,0000 MW of additional renewable energy is needed to hit the goal, with 27,000 MW coming from solar and 16,000 MW coming from wind.
Lotilla, however, said these investments are not expected to immediately contribute to power generation within the year.