THE Senate energy committee will look into the impact of a Luzon-wide lockdown meant to contain a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic on the oil and gas sector, its chairman said on Sunday.
Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, who heads the committee, has filed a resolution seeking an inquiry after the Department of Energy (DoE) said at least a tenth of the country’s 9,003 service stations had suspended operations.
“Since the country is mainly dependent on imported fuel, Congress has to know about the short, medium and long-term effects and implications of COVID-19 on the oil and gas industry,” Mr. Gatchalian said in a statement.
He added that the Senate would want to know about the status of oil and gas exploration projects meant to ensure energy security.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte locked down the entire Luzon island on March 17, suspending work, classes and public transportation to contain the outbreak. He later extended the so-called enhanced community quarantine by two more weeks until April 30 and again until May 15.
The Energy department earlier said it would outline plans for a strategic oil reserve by June, seeing the drop in global oil prices as a chance to stock up on petroleum products.
Mr. Gatchalian said the Senate inquiry would focus on these plans after the lockdown delayed opening of proposals for the development of new oil and gas sources.
He said the health crisis could postpone the proposed liquefied natural gas import terminal projects, originally expected to reach a final investment decision this year.
“The low demand for oil has also weighed heavily on the decision to hold plans to drill and explore potential oil and gas sources,” he said.
Oil prices settled 5% higher on Friday in their second consecutive week of gains as US producers cut production, with the number of drilling rigs falling to a record low and as more states relax lockdowns meant to halt the coronavirus pandemic, according to Reuters.
Brent crude settled up 5.1% or $1.51 at $30.97 a barrel. US West Texas Intermediate crude futures gained 5% or $1.19 to $24.74 a barrel.
Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi earlier said discussions on joint exploration in the South China Sea would resume once the lockdown is lifted. — C.A.T.