MANILA — Instead of negotiating with Russia for oil, which may be frowned upon by the US and Europe, the Philippines should strike coal deals with Indonesia instead, a senator said on Sunday.
The Philippines also has yet to receive a “standing offer” from Russia to procure oil from the nation currently at war with Ukraine, Senate Committee on Energy chair Sherwin Gatchalian said.
“There is no standing offer from Russia. That is based on my knowledge covering the energy sector,” he said during the “Pandesal Forum.”
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. earlier said that he may consider buying oil and fertilizers from Russia to pull down the rising prices of gasoline in the domestic market, but was later on cautioned by experts who noted that Manila may earn the ire of global powers should it transact with Moscow.
The United States, the European Union and other first world economies earlier imposed economic sanctions against Russia to punish it for invading Ukraine.
The Philippines should instead do business with closer neighbors like Indonesia, Gatchalian said, noting that Indonesia is one of the world’s top exporters of coal.
“We owe Indonesia a lot in terms of energy security. It’s a resource that is very important to us,” he said, noting that coal-fired power plants account for about 90 percent of the Philippines’ energy mix.
Manila and Jakarta and work together since the Philippines is “quite active in the renewable energy sector,” he said.
The 2 countries can have “shared technologies, shared laws, shared policies in terms of renewable energy,” he said.
Foreign affairs expert Pitan Daslani agreed with Gatchalian saying it may be more favorable for the Philippines to avoid taking sides in global conflicts.
“We’re not going to take sides. Indonesia will continue to be everybody’s friend,” the Indonesia analyst said, noting that Southeast Asia’s largest economy is “mandated by the constitution to play an active role in maintaining global peace.”
“It works,” he said, noting that Indonesian President Joko Widodo was even able to appeal to Moscow to reopen several trading routes despite the ongoing Russo-Ukrainian conflict.
Former speaker of the Regional Representative Council (DPD) Irman Gusman noted that the Philippines and Indonesia have “so many opportunities that were not explored yet.”
“We remember our friend far away but we forgot our neighbor close to us,” he said.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. chose Indonesia as his first international destination as Philippine President.
In September, Marcos Jr. traveled to Bogor and Jakarta to meet Widodo and woo Indonesian businessmen to invest more in the Philippines.
The Philippine President returned to Manila with $8.48 billion worth of investment pledges.
As of 2021, bilateral trade between the two countries is at $9.5 billion, with Indonesian exports amounting to $8.6 billion, and imports from the Philippines pegged at only $1.2 billion, Indonesian Ambassador to the Philippines Agus Widjojo earlier said.