'No condition' in resumption of oil exploration in West Philippine Sea: Cusi

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 19 2020 10:28 AM | Updated as of Oct 19 2020 12:22 PM

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MANILA - The Philippines is not dropping its UN arbitral win against China over the West Philippine Sea in lifting the moratorium on petroleum exploration asserting "no conditions" were set, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said Monday. 

The Philippines had imposed the moratorium while awaiting a ruling in a case by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, which in 2016 invalidated China's claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea. 

"There’s no such condition...what we really wanted to achieve is that we tap the resources, whatever resources there are at the West Philippines Sea so that our people can enjoy it and improve our standard of living," Cusi told ANC.

"In pursuit of a possible joint development, hindi po natin isinasama ‘yung ating sovereignty (we are not including our sovereignty) or are dropping the arbitration decision," he added.

There are at least 5 existing contracts to explore at the West Philippine Sea, which were affected when the moratorium was imposed, Cusi said. The list includes Manny Pangilinan's Forum Energy, PXP Energy and PNOC Exploration Corporation, he said.

In a disclosure to the stock exchange, PXP Energy said it has received the "resume-to-work" notice from the DOE. 

It also confirmed that there were ongoing negotiations relating to the MOU signed by China and the Philippines in November 2018 but there are no definitive agreements yet.

"The parties are yet to agree on any disclosable definitive agreement. Hence, to date, there are no disclosable information in respect of such on going negotiations," PXP Energy told the stock exchange.

Cusi said all contract holders were looking for partners. The Energy Department has also issued letters of authority allowing them to resume work on site, he said.

When asked if it was possible for existing companies with contracts to form joint venture agreements with Chinese firms, Cusi said "yes it is possible."

Cusi also said that China has issued a statement through its Foreign Secretary citing that Beijing was hopeful to work together for the joint development of the West Philippine Sea.

The oil exploration might yield results in "probably 5 years," Cusi said adding that there could be millions of barrels of potential oil in the area.

China has been in conflict with the Philippines and other Asian countries due to its claims in the South China Sea and assertion of its so called historical "nine-dash line."

Manila and Beijing have enjoyed friendlier relations under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.