Philippines Will Develop Petroleum Blocks Not Disputed by China

The Government has drafted plans to invite oil and gas companies to develop 14 petroleum blocks elsewhere in the archipelago nation.  A Philippine official told the Financial Times that the government was planning a roadshow in the UK, US, and Singapore during the third quarter of this year to drum up investors’ interest in the blocks.

Last week, Foreign Secretary Cayetano left the country to discuss issues such as trade, agriculture, infrastructure development, counter-terrorism cooperation, and other regional concerns.

“We have to find a legal framework that will pass the Philippine Constitution and that will also be acceptable to the Chinese people and Chinese leadership where we can jointly explore areas where there is a dispute in the South China Sea,” Cayetano said.

The two countries in February agreed to set up a special panel to work out how they can jointly explore offshore oil and gas in areas both sides claim, without needing to address the risky issue of sovereignty.

Speaking to reporters in Beijing after meeting Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, Wang said the South China Sea will be turned into a source of friendship and cooperation.

“We will enhance maritime dialogue and pursue equal-footed and friendly consultation and in a prudent and steady way advance cooperation on offshore oil and gas exploration,” Wang said.

Meanwhile, the exploration in Recto Bank is currently suspended due to Chinese pressure. The Philippines suspended exploration in the Reed Bank or Recto Bank in 2014 to pursue a legal challenge to China’s territorial claims.

The Recto Bank concession of SC 72 is located in the West Philippine Sea, west of Palawan Island and southwest of Malampaya Gas Field. SC 72 covers an area of 8,800 square kilometers.

In July 2016 the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague ruled in favor of the Philippines’ rights over its 370-kilometer EEZ which includes Recto Bank and invalidated China’s claims. But current Philippine government officials considered this placed as disputed.

The Philippines, China’s CNOOC Ltd, and state-owned PetroVietnam jointly surveyed the Reed Bank from 2003 to 2008.