Duterte: Joint oil exploration deal must be favorable to PHL

President Duterte said he will insist on getting a bigger share of oil and gas resources that will be found in the West Philippine Sea under a planned joint exploration deal between the Philippines and China.

Duterte said the Philippine government needs more resources to solve the power problem in provinces like Palawan.

“Regarding the oil, I told China, if there is really oil there and if you are the one who will be drilling the oil there, I said, ‘I will have to insist that we will get a bigger share. Because that’s ours.’ So it’s a must that [our] share is big—how will I face Palawan?” Duterte said in a speech during the first Subaraw Biodiversity Festival in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, late Saturday.

The President said he is pushing for a bigger share because the government needs money to find a solution to the persistent brownouts in Palawan.

“I needed the money because of your situation here. You still have brownouts, which last from six to eight hours. That is not acceptable to me,” he said in a mix of English and Filipino.

This came after Cabinet members said last week that they are not aware of any joint oil exploration deal that will be signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit this month.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr. told reporters in a text message that the focus of the visit is the country’s commitment to join China’s “Belt and Road” initiative, which was already authorized by the Cabinet in a meeting last week.

In October the government sealed a $34.35-million oil exploration deal with Israeli firm Ratio Petroleum Ltd. to drill for petroleum in the East Palawan Basin.

Manila agreed to the deal as the Malampaya gas field will dry out by 2027. This could pose a “serious energy crisis” as the gas field supplies about 40 percent of Luzon’s power needs.

As part of its independent foreign policy, the Duterte administration has sought closer ties with China amid the maritime dispute. Critics have since pointed out that the administration is following this tack in exchange for investments and funds for its infrastructure projects.

The Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration backed the Philippines when it issued the landmark decision invalidating China’s claims to the West Philippine Sea in 2016.

However, China still refuses to recognize the arbitral ruling.

The President has also said in his previous speeches that he will bring up the arbitral court’s ruling with China “at the right time.”

Ultimatum

President Duterte also warned power providers in Palawan that he will expropriate their franchises and give it to other players if they will not fix the power problem of the province by the end of the year.

Power interruptions have always occurred in Palawan. The Palawan Electric Cooperative has previously explained that the interruptions were due to the power line faults and problems in the generators of their independent power providers.

“I’ll give you about toward the end of the year, a new setup that would provide energy—enough energy to run a place and so that it can develop and it can operate and it can move,” he said. “You’ll have to upgrade your source of energy. Because if not, I will be the one to look for someone with money. China really wants to get hold of developments here.”

But Duterte assured that he will be expropriating the franchise at a “fair valuation.”

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