THE exploration unit of state-run Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) is seeking to expand its coal development works in Mindanao via the government’s contracting program.

In July, PNOC-Exploration Corp. (PNOC-EC) announced its intention to accelerate investment in coal production to become the leading exploration firm in the Philippines over the next decade.

The company applied to explore and develop two coal blocks in Malangas, Zamboanga Sibugay under COC (coal operating contract) 42, noting the “high quality” of coal in the area, according to a notice issued by the Department of Energy (DoE) Wednesday.

“Taking advantage of the high quality of coal in Zamboanga Sibugay, PNOC-EC is looking at production from two underground mines by 2025,” PNOC-EC President and Chief Executive Officer Rozzano D. Briguez said in July.

The company’s application was made under the DoE’s Philippine Conventional Energy Contracting Program, where energy stakeholders are allowed either to nominate a potential exploration area or to apply for an area pre-determined by the department.

PNOC-EC has three coal contracts in the province — COC 41, 186, and 185.

It produced 1.3 million metric tons of coal in COC 41 between 2002 and 2013, and another 757,000 metric tons from small-scale mines from 2002 to 2018.

“PNOC will prioritize projects with higher projected revenues, and thus we will be focusing on the development and production of mines in COC 41 and the development of coal mine-mouth power plant projects in COC 122 in Isabela (province),” Mr. Briguez said.

The DoE is inviting the power industry to challenge the PNOC-EC’s application and must submit applications within two months. —  Adam J. Ang