THE remaining reserves in the Malampaya gas field will be completely depleted by the first quarter of 2027, a senator said Tuesday, citing estimates from the Department of Energy (DoE).

“The Malampaya service contract is set to expire in 2024. Even if the service contract is extended, the DoE projects that the estimated 858,834 million standard cubic feet remaining in the Malampaya field as of Sept. 30, 2020 would be completely exhausted by the first quarter of 2027,” Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian said in a speech sponsoring a bill regulating the development of the midstream natural gas industry on Tuesday.

Mr. Gatchalian chairs the senate committee on energy.

The Philippines “could be facing a major energy crisis in less than six years” unless it can find alternative sources for natural gas, and will have little choice but to import, Mr. Gatchalian added.

Located off the coast of Palawan, Malampaya is the country’s sole natural gas field.

In his speech Tuesday in support of the proposed Senate Bill (SB) No. 2203 or the proposed Midstream Natural Gas Industry Development Act, Mr. Gatchalian said energy security “largely depends” on the available supply of natural gas, noting that more than a quarter of Luzon is powered by the fuel.

“Natural gas plants generated 56% of the 2.5-billion-kilowatt-hours purchased by Meralco (Manila Electric Co.) in April 2021, making natural gas the single most impactful electric power source for Metro Manila,” he said.

He said natural gas should complement variable renewable energy sources, as outlined in the National Renewable Energy Plan’s (NREP) latest draft covering 2021 to 2040.

In February, former Chairperson of the National Renewable Energy Board Monalisa C. Dimalanta said that the draft NREP is looking at increasing the share of renewable energy (RE) in the power mix “with higher flexibility in the system coming from natural gas plants all the way to 2030, with a slight decline by 2040.”

The draft NREP has an RE targets of 37.3% by 2030, and 55.8% by 2040.

On Tuesday, Mr. Gatchalian raised SB 2203 to the plenary. — Angelica Y. Yang