Senate explores DoE’s ‘Drill’ program

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Government’s “Drill, Drill, Drill” project for energy resources sufficiency yesterday received full assurance of support from the Senate which said it should be given a deeper look to ensure its success.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi is pushing “Drill, Drill, Drill” as complementary to President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Build, Build, Build” program.

While “Build, Build, Build” is focused on infrastructure developments all around the country, “Drill, Drill, Drill” will be anchored on oil and natural gas explorations even as the Department of Energy (DoE) is also looking at the possibility of tapping nuclear energy to boost government’s Cusi said explorations will be underway in 14 areas as he stressed the need for more drillings in the country. The Philippines, he said, needs to tap its natural resources to lessen its reliance on importation.

Cusi said the DoE identified 14 areas where investors can explore oil and gas resources through the modified Philippine Conventional Energy Contracting Program (PCECP).

These are in Cagayan, Cotabato, four sites in East Palawan, three sites in Sulu Sea, two sites in Agusan-Davao and four sites in West Luzon.

To sustain the DoE’s efforts towards energy security and self-sufficiency, the Senate is set to take an in-depth look at the national strategy.

Through Senate Resolution 916, Senate Committee on Energy chair Sen. Win Gatchalian wants to look at the DoE’s approach in ensuring energy supply.

Gatchalian cited the DoE’s commitment to implement measures to mitigate the ill effects of rising crude prices in the country. But he maintained that there is a need for the Senate to closely monitor the situation.

“DoE has committed to implement measures to mitigate the effects of continuing price increases in the world market. And to oversee the proper implementation of TRAIN, in so far as taxes on petroleum products are concerned,” Gatchalian said.

“Despite these efforts, it is necessary to be apprised of DoE’s strategic framework to achieve energy security and energy self-sufficiency to prevent similar situations from arising in the future,” he added.

Gatchalian stressed the need for energy security to alleviate the economic sufferings of Filipinos due to volatile global oil price movements.

“The need for energy security is further emphasized by the fact that the country imports 44.7 percent of its total primary energy supply, exposing it to price volatility in the world market,” the senator said.

The lawmaker noted that diesel and gasoline prices have shot up by as much as P5.45 and P6.30, respectively, from 25 July 2018 prices, noting that these rising pump prices have been exacerbated by the fuel excise tax imposed under the TRAIN Law (Republic Act 10963).

The senator also highlighted that the recent rounds of oil price hikes have contributed to the country’s climbing inflation rate, which hit a nine-year high at 6.7 percent in September 2018.

Cusi, however, is upbeat on “Drill, Drill, Drill,” saying: “This is a long-term program to attain oil sufficiency and to cease our dependence on imports.”

“We need to tap our natural resources. We have less exploration drilling and we need to increase them because we were left behind, compared with our neighboring countries,” the DoE chief added.

According to Cusi, PCECP is a new and transparent petroleum service contract-awarding mechanism that allows government to develop and utilize indigenous petroleum resources under a service contract with qualified local and international exploration companies.

The permitting is also shortened to 30 days. As soon as investors secure permits, they can start the exploration.

“Under the Philippine Energy Convention Program, any time of the year they can present their proposal and any exploration company interested to explore an area aside from what we have predetermined already (may do so),” Cusi said.

“By November, we are rolling the 14 exploration areas which we hope the exploration companies will get, so that next year, we can have higher exploration and drilling in the country,” Cusi added.

He also revealed that foreign and local investors are eyeing the possibility of joining the exploration and the DoE is currently conducting a road show to attract more support for the program.

Under the Philippine Energy Convention Program, any time of the year they can present their proposal and any exploration company interested to explore an area aside from what we have predetermined already (may do so).

To align the DoE’s policy with the exploration project, Cusi said the agency was able to change the bidding and auction procedures for the areas.

“Unlike before, it takes an interval of three years at least before we auction a predetermined area for exploration. So, now we can expedite it. And also because of the issuance of Executive Order 30, the permitting is shortened to 30 days and as soon as they get the permit, they can start the exploration,” the Energy Chief said.

Possible use of nuclear energy is also being considered, according to the DoE.

In a previous statement, the agency said: “We stand behind President Rodrigo Duterte’s pronouncements on ensuring the safe utilization of all energy sources, especially with the renewed interest on nuclear energy technology.”

The DoE is currently proceeding with unified and coordinated efforts and activities with the creation of a Nuclear Energy Program Implementing Organization (NEPIO).

The NEPIO is headed by a Steering Committee with top DoE officials at the helm, while DoE bureaus will create technical working groups to ensure effective and timely implementation of its functions and responsibilities.

The Department of Science and Technology and its attached agencies, DoE attached agencies, other relevant government offices and local and international partner organizations will be asked to assist the NEPIO in its work.

During the recent IAEA International Conference on the Prospects For Nuclear Power in the Asia Pacific Region, we pointed out: “The country should have a clear position on nuclear power. A well-informed decision is key to a sustainable and comprehensive energy program.

With all the new findings, technological advancements and successful experiences of countries around the world, nuclear energy holds much promise for long-term energy plans.”

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