By Juan Escandor Jr.
NAGA CITY---Raising an alarm of 10-12 hours rotating brownout that happened in 1992 at the time when the Malampaya gas field was not yet in operation, Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio calls for the national government to start exploring another potential gas field along the West Philippine Sea that was officially awarded to the Philippine state by the international tribunal over a territorial dispute with China.
The contested maritime territory has a net area of 376,000 square kilometers of the sea, more than the total land area of the Philippines of 300,000 square
Carpio, who held a lecture regarding the international tribunal’s decision that dismissed the nine-dash line declaration of the Chinese government, said the window of opportunity is closing in because the gas stock of Malampaya Is depleting and is expected to have been fully exhausted in less han ten years from now.
He said the only alternative to sustain the power supply of the Luzon grid, where 40 percent of which is supplied by Malampaya, is the Reed Bank. He added the Philippines has “legality of ownership” ruled by the international tribunal in which China did not participate with the “physical protection” as the remaining problem.
“It is clear now the Reed Bank is ours. If we do not find a replacement for Malampaya, we will have 10-12 hours of rotating brownout in Luzon…factories will close, schools will close, and it will devastate the economy,” Carpio told some 200 participants at the forum held at the College of Law hall of the Ateneo de Naga University Friday last week, Nov. 24.
Among the participants in the forum, aside from Ateneo students, were students from University of Nueva Cacares and the University of Sto. Tomas in Legazpi City.
Reed Bank is supposed to be larger than Malampaya gas field, he said.
“We have not started. The window of opportunity is closing on us. We have now less than ten years away,” Carpio warns.
He said he cannot understand why President Duterte in his pronouncements said that other Asean nations lay claims of the Reed Bank when it is only China, a non-Asean nation, that set its claim.
“There is only one Asean claimant---the Philippines. Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunie are not claiming the Reed Bank. The paramount interest of the Philippines right now, is to ensure and find replacement for Malampaya because we will have terrible blow to our economy if we have 10-12 hours rotating brownout,” Carpio said.
He said it will be easier to connect a pipeline to the Reed Bank from Malampaya, going to Batangas, where the gas is distributed to power sources that provide 40 percent of the energy requirement of Luzon.
He said it will be doubly hard to resort to importing liquified gas because it will be technically difficult to transport and store them, unlike extending pipes to Reed Bank from Malampaya gas fields which is 85 nautical miles from Palawan and 595 miles from China’s island of Hainan.
Carpio said it took six years to finish the infrastructure of the Malampaya gas fields.
He said the Philippine government has always been bombarded with note verbal or diplomatic protest from China with regards to the exploration of the Reed Bank. China claims Reed Bank, he said, so that no western company can build a gas field for the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea.
Carpio said that in 2010, the Philippine awarded service contract to Quorum Energy/Sterling Energy to exploit gas. He said China sent a note verbal -- an official protest -- saying that China expresses “strong objection and indignation in a certain indisputable sovereignty and jurisdiction over Spratly’s and its adjacent channeling the matter to the Philippines to withdraw the service contract immediately.”
He said China filed another note verbal on 13 May 2010, asking the immediate withdrawal of the Philippines regarding the decision to award the service contract to exploit the Reed Bank.
In 2011, Carpio said, the Philippine government advertised for international bidding the areas 3 and 4 of the Reed Bank for exploration.
By July 4, 2011, the Chinese government asked the Philippines to immediately withdraw or pay for any action that infringes the China’s sovereignty and sovereign rights.
In 2011, Chinese vessels towed away the survey ship of the Philippines and then the moratorium was imposed to stop them from surveying, Carpio said.