MANILA (Reuters) - The Philippines said on Thursday it was pursuing a long-delayed oil and gas exploration project with Chinese state-owned entity CNOOC Ltd and a Canada-listed company in an area near disputed waters in the South China Sea.
Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi said the Philippine government was also looking for a “win-win solution” with other South China Sea claimants, including China, to pave the way for oil and gas exploration within contested waters.
China claims most of the South China Sea, through which about $5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes annually, while Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam also have claims.
The Philippines suspended exploration in the disputed waters, halting two projects, as it pursued and eventually won an arbitration case involving territorial disputes with China.
Cusi, speaking at a media briefing after a meeting in Manila with other energy ministers from Southeast Asia, said the issue of energy exploration in South China Sea was not discussed.
“We are looking for a win-win solution to move things forward so that we can enjoy whatever resources are there.”
Cusi said he had put forward the Calamian project of PNOC Exploration Corp, a unit of state-owned Philippine National Oil Company, in partnership with CNOOC and Jadestone Energy Inc. to President Rodrigo Duterte for his approval.
The Calamian project off the island of Palawan in western Philippines is covered by a service contract awarded to the PNOC unit in 2008. It lies near the country’s main oil and gas fields, including Malampaya, Nido, Cadlao and Matinloc.
Exploration was delayed by “a lot of issues”, Cusi said.
CNOOC has a 51 percent interest in the project, with PNOC Exploration keeping a 28 percent stake while Jadestone, formerly Mitra Energy Ltd, has 21 percent.
Cusi was scheduled to meet his Chinese counterpart in Manila on Thursday to talk about energy cooperation.
“We’re looking for a diplomatic way of doing things,” Cusi said. “I don’t like to (set) any timetable but we are trying our best to (lift the exploration moratorium) as soon as possible.”
Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; editing by Alexander Smith