Duterte: Esperon, Lorenzana part of PH steering committee on joint oil exploration

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 4) — President Rodrigo Duterte revealed the names of two officials who will be part of the steering committee to supervise joint oil and gas exploration by the country and China.

At a media briefing in Malacañang Wednesday, Duterte said National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon, Jr. and Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana will be part of the team.

"Verily it should be Secretary Esperon, Secretary Lorenzana, then maybe one or two...five, so parang walang tabla (so that there won't be a tie)," the President said.

When asked whether Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi would be part of the team, the President seemed hesitant.

Duterte replied, "Pwede, sa oil? Tignan ko [I'll see], I have to listen to him."

The President did not give details on what roles the Philippine officials would take in the committee.

In August, CNN Philippines reported seven members of the Chinese team:

- Vice Foreign Minister Luo Zhaohui as co-chair

- Vice Minister Li Fanrong of the National Energy Administration as co-vice chair

- Hong Liang, Director General of the Department of Boundary and Ocean Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

- Shen Minjuan, Deputy Director General of the Department of Asian Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

- Gou Haibo, Counselor of the Department of Treaty and Law, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

- Liang Jinzhe, Deputy Director General of the Office of Foreign Affairs Commission of the CPC Central Committee

- Liu Hong, Deputy Director General of the Department of Oil and Gas, National Energy Administration

Meanwhile, the Philippine delegation is composed of eight officials – the co-chair and co-vice chair plus three other members from the Department of Foreign Affairs, and one each from the Department of Energy, Department of Justice, and the National Mapping and Resource Information Authority.

READ: EXCLUSIVE: PH, China appoint members of joint exploration committee

The list and number of members was revealed exclusively to CNN Philippines during the President's visit to China where he met with President Xi Jinping.

It followed the signing of the terms of reference of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on cooperation on oil and gas development, which was inked during Xi's state visit to the Philippines in November last year. The MOU states that the two countries agreed to accelerate arrangements for joint exploration in maritime areas in accordance with international law.

The MOU does not specify the areas to be covered, but the Philippines has earlier offered an area in the Recto Bank, also known as the Reed Bank, for oil exploration. The 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 country's power supply.