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By Prince Golez

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the lifting of the suspension of petroleum activities and the resumption of petroleum exploration in the West Philippine Sea (WPS), the Department of Energy (DOE) said.

“I thank the President for approving the DOE recommendation. We need to explore so we may address the country’s energy security,” Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said in a press statement Thursday.

Cusi stressed the need to resume exploration, development, and production activities in the country’s exclusive economic zone, citing the impending depletion of the Malampaya natural gas field.

A “Resume-to-Work” notice has already been issued to the Service Contractors (SC) doing petroleum-related activities in the areas of SC 59, 72, and 75 in the West Philippine Sea.

In 2015, the Aquino administration stopped exploration and drilling activities in the West Philippine Sea amid rising tensions with China.

The DOE secretary said the lifting of the suspension will infuse the economy with fresh foreign direct investments and generate high-skills jobs to boost economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“The lifting of the suspension places the service contractors under legal obligation to put capital into the contract areas and hire Filipino engineers and technical workers to resume exploration,” according to him.

The lifting of the moratorium, he added, was done “in good faith” and with full regard for the ongoing negotiations between the Philippines and China, and Forum Ltd. and the China National Offshore Corp.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin has been informed of the President’s decision.

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