DOE to award exploration contracts in Bangsamoro area
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Energy (DOE) is bent on awarding oil and gas exploration contracts that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) wants shelved until a wealth-sharing agreement with the Philippine government is forged on the Bangsamoro territory.
Energy Undersecretary Jose Layug Jr. told reporters on Wednesday, October 31, that the department will proceed with "business as usual" and award the service contracts for Areas 11, which spans 600,000 hectares, and 12, which covers 456,000 hectares.
"We have already received the bids and finished the evaluation, and we might send a bad signal to investors if we do not award these two contracts," Layug said.
MILF chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim earlier called on the government to cancel the bidding of the exploration areas, which he said are part of the Cotabato basin and belonged to the Bangsamoro homeland.
Layug told Rappler that the entire Cotabato basin has 71 million and 13 million barrels of mapped and unmapped oil resources, respectively. Area 12 is only a portion of the basin. "Thus until we drill wells, we will not be able to confirm the oil reserves," he said.
Meanwhile, Area 11 is actually located in the East Palawan basin, Layug noted.
Layug assured the MILF leadership that they will coordinate with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process on the results of negotiations under the Bangsamoro Framework Agreement.
He said awarding of the exploration contracts will need the approval of President Benigno Aquino III.
The MILF and the Aquino government will enter the next phase of the peace process this month. Their representatives will meet in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to tackle the annexes of the Framework Agreement signed last October 15. - Rappler.com