'Natural gas reserves in Recto Bank bigger than Malampaya'

Posted at 04/23/2012 4:11 PM | Updated as of 04/24/2012 6:50 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Energy (DOE) is positive the exploration in Recto Bank would yield an enormous amount of natural gas, expected to be the same size or even bigger than the Malampaya natural gas field.

Energy Undersecretary Jay Layug said previous studies conducted in the area revealed a huge deposit of natural gas, possibly more than 2.7 trillion cubic feet, which is the amount of natural gas in Malampaya.

Of that amount, 1.2 trillion cubic feet of the Malampaya find had already been used to power Luzon's major electricity plants.

According to Layug, the project is important, especially with the Mindanao power shortage. A similar power crisis can happen in Luzon if no new energy sources are found.

When asked if the Chinese government would be claiming the service contract area, Layug maintained the Recto Bank is clearly within the jurisdiction of the Philippines, since it is 70 nautical miles west of Palawan.

The DOE has already farmed out several service contracts but none of these are within the disputed Spratlys or Scarborough Shoal.

But Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras in an earlier interview expressed apprehension on the suggestion to undertake a joint exploration on the disputed areas.

While Almendras insisted the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should be the one to answer the issue, Almendras said there are questions on which country will issue permits, whose laws will be the terms and conditions be anchored on and who will own the find, in case of any.

These are questions that Almendras said will have an impact on the ongoing dispute among China, the Philippines and other southeast Asian countries.