Philippine Navy (PN) is ready to protect Filipino ships that would conduct oil exploration and survey in the West Philippine Sea (WPS). “I cannot predict what will happen next but I (would like) to inform you that the Philippine Navy is ready to protect our vessels conducting oil exploration or conducting surveys in our areas, in our areas within the 200-nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone, within the 350-nautical mile Extended Continental Shelf in the Benham Rise,” said Navy chief, Vice Admiral Giovanni Carlo Bacordo, in a virtual presser.
When asked how the PN plans to protect oil explorations and surveying teams authorized by the Department of Energy (DOE), the PN chief said this would be done by the conduct of “continuous EEZ patrols” and “continuous conduct of maritime and air patrols”.
Aside from this, this can be done by the ongoing improvements of facilities in the West Philippine Sea so that the PN can be more efficient in monitoring and in its response time to vessels conducting these explorations. “We will be prepared for whatever contingencies,” Bacordo added.
Last week, President Rodrigo Duterte approved the recommendation of the DOE to lift the suspension of energy exploration activities in the disputed waters.
Under the Republic Act 7638 or the “Department of Energy Act of 1992”, the DOE has the authority to regulate the exploration of the country’s indigenous energy resources.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said his office had issued a “Resume-to-Work” order to Service Contractors doing petroleum-related activities in the areas of SC 59, 72, and 75 in the WPS.
The activities there were suspended on the ground of “force majeure” due to the WPS dispute. SCs 59 and 72 are operated by the Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corp. (PNOC-EC) and Forum Ltd., respectively, while PXP Energy Corp. operates SC 75.
Cusi pointed out that the lifting of the suspension will introduce the economy with fresh foreign direct investments and generate high-skilled jobs, both of which are needed to boost economic recovery following the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic.