By Matthew Carl L. Montecillo
THE NATIONAL Government should proceed with the exploration of the South China Sea for oil and gas, a congressman said on Monday.
“Let’s do it, let’s look for gas and oil in the West Philippine Sea, especially in Recto Bank off Palawan, which reportedly holds natural gas deposits that are bigger than those in Malampaya, which by the way is drying up in a few years,” Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus B Rodriguez said in a statement.
He said the government should not think of what China would say and “be guided only by the national interest.”
Indonesia and Malaysia conducted oil and natural gas surveys in their continental shelves despite Chinese objections, said Renato C. de Castro, an International Studies professor.
“They have political will,” he said in a Viber message. “The previous Duterte administration did not have the political will to conduct surveys in our own exclusive economic zones despite our victory in the 2016 arbitral ruling and our Mutual Defense Treaty with the US.”
“This is the better way to go given that we’ve had a bad experience with our softer approach in dealing with China on the joint exploration of the West Philippine Sea,” says Arjan P. Aguirre, a political science professor at the Ateneo De Manila University, referring to areas of the sea within the country’s exclusive economic zone.
“This will also force the government to really be serious in upgrading our capabilities to do gas exploration and extraction,” he added.
Robin Michael U. Garcia, who teaches political economy at the University of Asia and the Pacific, said the Philippines should expect a strong response from China if it proceeds with the exploration.
“The new administration has to define its China policy and our foreign policy towards great power competition in general,” he said.
Mr. Rodriguez said Chinese companies that want to participate in the exploration could do so as contractors.
Former President Rodrigo R. Duterte terminated oil and gas talks with China after failing to reach a deal after years of negotiation.