MANILA � Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Friday expressed his support to proposals for the Philippines to jointly explore for natural resources in the West Philippine Sea (WPS) with "China and other countries", as long as it is "between private parties and that we won't be giving away the deed to the area."
Recto said he supports the joint exploration because gas and oil hunts are usually joint ventures among countries, citing the Malampaya gas field off Palawan which is a collaboration among Philippine, Dutch and British firms.
Recto, however, said joint energy exploration in the WPS must be under "a constitutionally-compliant, win-win arrangement" and should not be exclusively with China.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte has been open to the idea of the Philippines jointly exploring the West Philippine Sea with China, saying Wednesday that it can be likened to co-ownership of the disputed area with the Asian superpower.
The President added that joint exploration is better than waging war.
"Kung hindi China, mayroon naman talagang foreign na partnerkung hindi Amerikano, mga Europeans, kasi sila ang may technology at capital," Recto said.
"Hindi dapat cross-country rule ang invitation. Open it to all," he added.
Recto pointed to the urgency of searching for domestic sources of fossil fuel due to the projected end of Malampaya's production by 2024.
"We have a growing energy appetite to satiate. If Malampaya, which supplies 45 percent of Luzon's power, runs out of natural gas in six years, then the search for ways to secure our energy future becomes urgent," he said.
Piped in from an offshore platform, Malampaya gas fuels three base load power plants in Batangas with a capacity of 2,700 megawatts (MW).
The plants provide 40 to 50 percent of the energy needs of the 57 million people living in the world's fourth most populous island.
Recto said that while energy officials and the gas field's driller have assured that a combination of measures will stretch Malampaya's life to 2029, "it has been conceded that output will drop in 2024."
This specter of energy starvation is what should drive the renewed hunt for new gas and oil fields within our seas," he said.
"We are a few years away from a zero dark hour. Kaya kailangan maging bold and innovative tayo sa paghanap ng pagkukunan ng enerhiya, pero sa isang paraan na hindi tayo lugi, at hindi natin ipinamimigay ang sadyang atin," he added.
Source: Philippine News Agency