FIRING LINE: China blocks Phl’s energy security

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By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

Just as everyone else in this archipelago is face-forward to ensuring clean, honest, peaceful, and credible elections on May 9, our beloved country is being attacked from the rear by our fading President’s favorite oppressor, China.

Apparently, we have been so busy wrestling among ourselves about the future of the presidency that Beijing has come like a thief in the night to steal our future in energy sufficiency.

As University of the Philippines professor Jay Batongbacal explains, our government signed an agreement with Beijing in 2018 to cooperate on oil and gas development for mutual benefit while keeping the two countries’ South China Sea dispute on the backburner.

Of course, this friendly gesture allowed Duterte to order the resumption of drilling for very promising oil and gas deposits in the West Philippine Sea starting in October 2020. After all, the premise of joint exploration is that China and the Philippines are in the same boat for mutual benefit.

Also, our country’s energy security for this decade heavily depends on it since the Malampaya – which supplies about 20 percent of our power needs – is drying out faster than expected. Senator Sherwin Gatchalian warned last year that its deep-water gas will completely run out in the first quarter of 2027.

Abruptly, though, the promise of a replacement in the Sampaguita gas field, located in Recto Bank, is slammed shut and drilling halted. According to Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, Chinese intimidation has forced the Department of Energy (DOE) to order the private petroleum service contractor over the Sampaguita field to “hold exploration activities” in the WPS.

“Sampaguita is estimated to contain anywhere from 3.5 to 4.6 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas. This is comparable to if not bigger than Malampaya’s 3.4 tcf of gas upon discovery,” Pimentel said. But because China is blocking its development, what’s there to do now, Mr. President?

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A great dame of Camarines Norte, Rep. Marisol Panotes, bade farewell to us all last Friday, April 29.

To me, she was Tita Toots – a kind and generous person and a public servant I could be proud of, just like Uncle Elmer, her husband whose shoes she had to fill when he, too, passed away during his incumbency in the House of Representatives.

She surely committed to Uncle Elmer’s mission to serve their province mates that, even at 76, she campaigned vigorously for the coming elections. She will be greatly missed and remembered great.

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