DoE eyes vessels for oil exploration

By Jordeene Sheex Lagare – March 22, 2018
from The Manila Times

The Department of Energy (DoE) is thinking of using funds from the Malampaya gas facility to buy research vessels to explore possible oil resources in Philippine waters, an official said on Wednesday.

“Procuring that kind of ship is being seriously studied and considered,” Energy Assistant Secretary Gerardo Erguiza Jr. said.

“The Malampaya funds are being considered right now, as…marine scientific research is a hot” topic, he added.

“We also thought: Why not [use such ships in the]oil industry,” Erguiza said.

According to the official, purchasing ships for marine research is wise, given the country’s vast seas.

Every time there is an exploration, either the government pays for it or lets a private entity do so with the understanding that after it uses whatever data come out of its research for a certain time, that data would be turned over to DoE, he said.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, agrees with the move, saying the country lacks ships for exploration, marine science research and seismic surveys.

“I think one of these vessels, if I’m not mistaken, will cost, more or less, about P1.2 billion. But we have P204 billion in Malampaya funds. We can afford to purchase ships,” he told reporters.

Based on the legislator’s computation, the funds are enough to pay off all stranded debts and costs, and buy seismic survey ships.

Earlier this month, President Rodrigo Duterte expressed willingness to use taxpayers’ money on maritime survey vessels.

In a news briefing, Palace Spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said there was a need to assess the natural resources in the Philippine (Benham) Rise.

“Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said they have been conducting research on the Philippine Rise for the past decade. [The plan to buy ships is] now very solid,” he added.

According to him, the government may not even use the Malampaya funds to buy the vessels.

Using the funds could raise legal questions, since the Supreme Court had ordered that they may only be used for energy-related projects, he said.

But Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez had said the government had the money to buy the ships without using the Malampaya funds, he added.