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Moratorium on oil projects may not be lifted soon

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ALMOST two years after President Rodrigo R. Duterte said he might order the lifting of the moratorium on all oil and gas projects in the West Philippines Sea, including Service Contract 72 in the highly disputed Recto Bank, the Palace is unsure whether the lifting will still push. “‘Di natin alam kung ma-lift (We do not know if it will be lifted),” Presidential Spokesperson Salvador S. Panelo told BusinessWorld in an ambush interview last Thursday when asked regarding the request by the Department of Energy (DoE) to lift the moratorium on Service Contract 72 or the Recto Bank concession. “‘Di natin alam kung malabo, basta kung iyan ang sitwasyon, talagang wala pa (We do not know if it is unlikely, but if that is the situation, there is really no [decision] for now).” The Service Contract 72 is west of Palawan and southwest of the Shell-operated Malampaya Gas field, a deepwater gas-to-power project in Service Contract 38. The Department of Energy (DoE) issued a moratorium on all exploration and drilling activities in Service Contracts 72 and 75 in 2014 and 2015, respectively, due to the dispute between the Philippines and China over the West Philippine Sea. After his meeting with Chinese Premiere Li Keqiang in Manila in Nov. 2017, Mr. Duterte said the lifting of the moratorium was a possibility. “It’s one of the possibilities that will happen or can happen or will happen in South China Sea,” he said. Sought for comment, DoE Undersecretary Felix William B. Fuentebella said in a phone message: “The request to lift the moratorium at WPS has been submitted to OP (Office of the President) last February. Apparently, the same has been referred to the different cabinet clusters for the ‘whole of government’ decision on the matter.” — Arjay L. Balinbin









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