THE Department of Energy (DoE) said it is reviewing whether a Supreme Court (SC) ruling rejecting a joint exploration deal with China and Vietnam in the South China Sea affects even those agreements entered into with “friendly countries.”

“Among the things I would like to consider in our discussions is precisely the perspective adopted by the Department of Justice under (previous governments) because does it mean for example that the Philippines cannot enter into an agreement with a friendly country for further exploration in different parts of the country?” Energy Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla told reporters on the sidelines of the Energy Efficiency Day 2023 conference on Thursday.

Mr. Lotilla said that the DoE is seeking a clarification on the SC ruling.

“I don’t want to foreclose that particular interpretation and how that fits into this administration,” he added.

In a ruling dated January but released only this month, the SC voided a 2005 government deal with China and Vietnam for joint gas and oil exploration in the South China Sea.

The SC declared the 2005 agreement unconstitutional because it allowed foreign entities to explore for Philippine natural resources without full government supervision.

The Constitution requires that exploration, development and use of Philippine natural resources be under full state control and supervision.

“Let’s look at instead whether or not there are issues that need to be further clarified because in the past, the Philippines also entered into international agreements with Australia, Norway where they assisted the Philippines… this is not actually the first time,” he said.

“We are a vastly underexplored country in terms of gas and oil and so every effort to explore the potential is there,” he said.

On March 18, the DoE said it is working with the Office of the Solicitor General to determine how to respond to the SC decision.

The joint marine seismic undertaking was signed in 2005 by the China National Offshore Oil Corp., Vietnam Oil and Gas Corp., and Philippine National Oil Co. — Ashley Erika O. Jose