Duterte wants Russian energy giant to invest in PH

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President Rodrigo Duterte greets Rosneft Chief Executive Officer Igor Sechin during their meeting in Moscow, Russia. Presidential photo.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 3) — President Rodrigo Duterte wants a Russian energy giant that has earned China’s ire to invest in oil and gas development in the Philippines.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Thursday that Duterte invited Rosneft to invest in the Philippines during his meeting with the state-owned Russian oil company’s chief executive officer, Igor Sechin, on Tuesday evening in Moscow.

Panelo said Duterte assured Rosneft officials that “their investments are safe in the Philippines and that he would not tolerate corruption in the bureaucracy.”

He added that Duterte assured the company that an agreement on oil and gas exploration “shall undergo the proper domestic processes and comply with applicable laws and pertinent rules and regulations so as not to leave any room for corruption or irregularity.”

Philippine Ambassador to Russia Carlos Sorreta said in an interview before Duterte’s meeting with Sechin that Manila hopes that Moscow sets up plants for natural gas. He added that there have also been initial talks on nuclear energy.

“We have very advanced talks in non-energy uses for medicine, for radiology, for other uses of nuclear energy,” Sorreta said.

Rosneft is operating an oil block that provides 10 percent of Vietnam’s energy needs. It is also operating a Japanese semi-submersible rig on the continental shelf of the Southeast Asian country.

This has angered China, which warned that “no country, organization, company or individual” can conduct oil and gas explorations in the waters it claims. The East Asian giant has also been monitored to have sent out coast guard ships to intimidate Vietnamese vessels that supply the oil rig.

These moves came even as a Hague-based tribunal established under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and backed by the Permanent Court of Arbitration ruled in 2013 that China’s historical claims over virtually the entire South China Sea, including portions of Ho Chi Minh and Manila’s exclusive economic zones, is baseless.

But despite China’s opposition to Rosneft’s involvement in oil explorations by Vietnam, Nikkei reported that it still struck oil and gas deals with it in 2018.

China largely sources its crude oil from Russia.

Beijing is also looking to conduct joint oil and gas explorations with Manila, having signed a deal for this during Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s visit to the Philippine capital in November 2018.

The Philippines and China have moved forward with their joint oil and gas exploration deal, naming members of the joint steering committee that will supervise projects under the agreement.

The deal does not specify the areas to be covered, but the Philippines has earlier offered for oil exploration an area in the Recto Bank, also known as the Reed Bank, which China is contesting.

Recto Bank has been eyed as a possible replacement for Malampaya, whose natural gas deposits are expected to run out in ten years. Malampaya accounts for 20 percent of the Philippines’ power supply.

CNN Philippines’ Ina Andolong and Xave Gregorio contributed to this report.