State oil exploration firm to start drilling in Cagayan's SC 37

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 14) — The Philippines will finally start drilling activities in Service Contract 37, located onshore Cagayan Basin, according to the Philippine National Oil Company Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC).

"We just had the approval of our board last week for the drilling which will be conducted next year," retired Lt. Gen. Rozzano Briguez, PNOC-EC President and CEO, said Thursday during a Senate committee hearing on the state-run firm's proposed 2022 budget.

"Should that happen, probably we are looking at 2025 and 2026 for the production if we will be lucky," Briguez added.

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Committee on Energy, was not too optimistic. "When it comes to oil and gas there seems to be almost zero activity," he said.

"Typically, they (PNO and Energy Department) always tell us some promises, some dates of drilling or potential extraction of oil but nothing is happening," he added.

The senator lamented how the Philippines has been lagging behind its Southeast Asian neighbors in oil exploration and extraction efforts.

Briguez apologized for the delay.

"Sorry Mr. Chairman, it took us one year to really mature the prospect and we got the approval for SC 37 and hopefully - we are delayed [by] ten to 12 months - but hopefully in 2022 we can drill already," he said.

PNOC-EC, a government owned and controlled corporation, fully owns SC 37 - one of seven petroleum service contracts where it is either the operator or a partner.

It used to operate the San Antonio Gas Field, the country's very first natural gas facility, which was also located in the Cagayan Basin. After it was decommissioned in 2008, PNOC-EC continued to explore the petroleum potential of the area, yielding positive results.

Briguez said two other sites - Service Contract 58 in West Calamian offshore Northwest Palawan and Service Contract 59 in West Balabac offshore Southwest Palawan - are both in the early stages of exploration. These are expected to be completed in 2026.