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VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Marcos muddles up question on depletion of Malampaya with Reed Bank issue

Responding to a question about the impending depletion of the Malampaya gas field, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. said “the Malampaya fields, the natural gas fields that lie within our baselines and within our exclusive economic zone and that again is being questioned in certain cases, certain areas by China.”

Inaccurate

Marcos confused Reed Bank with Malampaya.

Reed Bank “has been adjudged by the South China Sea Arbitral Award to be part of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone,” says international law expert Romel Bagares.

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos made an inaccurate reference to issues in the Reed Bank (Philippine name: Recto Bank) in response to a question about the impending depletion of the Malampaya gas field at an international leadership forum in Washington, D.C.

STATEMENT

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Southeast Asia Program, Marcos was asked about the “biggest immediate need for the Philippines to address the impending loss of [the] Malampaya field in 2027.”

He answered that the only way to resolve “outstanding issues in the Malampaya gas field” is to continue negotiating with China:

“But the Malampaya fields, the natural gas fields that lie within our baselines and within our exclusive economic zone and that again is being questioned in certain cases, certain areas by China.”

 

Source: Center for Strategic & International Studies, A Conversation with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. of the Philippines, May 4, 2023, watch from 39:49 to 40:26

Marcos added:

“China claims certain areas of the sea, the nine-dash line, and covers just about the entire West Philippine Sea. We, on the other hand, have established our baselines, which have been recognized and accredited by UNCLOS. And therefore, there is that conflict.”

 

Source: watch from 40:40 to 41:02

The Presidential Communications Office also used Marcos’ inaccurate statement in a May 5 press release

FACT

Marcos confused Reed Bank with Malampaya.

In a message to VERA Files Fact Check, international law expert Romel Bagares said Reed Bank “has been adjudged by the South China Sea Arbitral Award to be part of the Philippine Exclusive Economic Zone.”

Malampaya, situated in offshore northwest Palawan, began commercial operations as early as 2002 through Service Contract (SC) 38. It is the primary source of non-renewable natural gas in the country, powering about 40% of Luzon’s energy needs during its peak.

With the expiration of its contract in 2024, the Malampaya consortium of Prime Infrastructure Capital Inc. (Prime Infra), Udenna Corp., and state-run Philippine National Oil Co.-Exploration Corp. hopes to extend its life by “expanding gas production” in the area.

(Read VERA FILES FACT SHEET: Four things you need to know about Malampaya)

On the other hand, Forum Energy Ltd. operates the Reed Bank concession of SC 72, an exploration project in the West Philippine Sea, west of Palawan Island and southwest of Malampaya. The Sampaguita Gas Field is reported to have about 3.1 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves.

SC 75, also in Reed Bank, was awarded to PXP Energy Corp. in December 2013. It covers an area of 6,160 square kilometers in the offshore northwest Palawan basin. The project was intended to replace Malampaya when it runs dry, but drilling in the area was suspended in 2022 because of continued objections from China which claims the area.

 

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Sources

Romel Bagares, Personal communication (text), May 8, 2023

Business Mirror, Govt urged to lift suspension of oil and gas drilling in WPS, June 27, 2022

BusinessWorld Online, DoE urged to clear Recto Bank operations ahead of Malampaya depletion, Oct. 19, 2022

Inquirer.net, Gov’t urged to lift suspension of exploration projects in WPS, March 13, 2023

Department of Energy, Philippine Energy Plan 2020 – 2040, accessed May 8, 2023

Shell, Shell completes sale of interest in Malampaya, Philippines, Nov. 1, 2022

Malampaya.com, Power from the Deep » DOE, PNOC, and Prime Infra visit Malampaya Offshore Platform, Dec. 14, 2022

PNOC-EC, Service Contract 38 – Malampaya Project, accessed May 8, 2023

Department of Energy, DOE Statement on the Malampaya Phases 2 and 3, accessed May 8, 2023

PXP Energy Corporation (formerly Philex Petroleum Corporation), Service Contract No. 72 Recto Bank, accessed May 8, 2023

PNOC-EC, Service Contract No. 75 – Northwest Palawan, accessed May 8, 2023

 

(Guided by the code of principles of the International Fact-Checking Network at Poynter, VERA Files tracks the false claims, flip-flops, misleading statements of public officials and figures, and debunks them with factual evidence. Find out more about this initiative and our methodology.)