Cagayan de Oro City 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez on Wednesday urged the Department of Energy (DOE) to immediately allow exploration activities for its service contractor in Recto Bank for it to fulfill its contract obligations.

“We understand that Forum Energy is raring to explore Recto Bank for gas and oil. We support the contractor’s plan to go into exploration activities. We call on the DOE to give its go-signal,” Rodriguez said in a statement.

Based on records from the DOE, Forum Energy, which is controlled by billionaire-businessman Manny V. Pangilinan, is required to drill two offshore appraisal wells on or before Oct. 16, 2022 under its service contract, in an area located within the Recto Bank basin.

Recto Bank, also known as Reed Bank, is within the Philippine exclusive economic zone northwest of Palawan, in waters disputed with China.

Rodriguez said the DOE and other concerned government agencies, including the Department of National Defense, should help Forum Energy in its undertaking as “they (Forum) are doing it not just for themselves but for the nation and the national interest.”

In calling for the immediate resumption of oil and gas explorations in Recto Bank, the Mindanao lawmaker pointed out that Recto Bank is believed to hold gas and oil reserves much larger than those in the Malampaya gas project, also in Palawan.

The Malampaya gas field is the Philippines’ only domestic commercial source of natural gas, accounting for 20 percent of the country’s total power requirement.

However, the Malampaya concession is due to expire in 2024, with output due to fall starting this year until it becomes commercially unviable by 2027.

On the other hand, the resource potential of Forum Energy’s service contract in Recto Bank is estimated at 165 million barrels of oil and 3.4 trillion cubic feet of gas.

“Recto Bank will be our replacement for Malampaya,” Rodriguez said. “If Malampaya dries up without gas being extracted from Recto Bank, power plants in Luzon would be forced to use more expensive fuel. That will result in an increase in the cost of electricity in Luzon, which will not be good for all of us and the government of President Ferdinand R. Marcos.”

During the Philippines LNG and Gas summit on September 27, the DOE said it is already preparing the service contract covering the resumption of exploration at Recto Bank, which it hopes would help make up for the impending loss of the nearly depleted Malampaya gas field. (PNA)

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