VERA FILES FACT CHECK: Story claiming Alegria is PH’s first oil field FALSE

Website News Viral Online ( boasted in an April 5 story that the Alegria oil field in Cebu, inaugurated by Pres. Rodrigo Duterte in 2018, is the country’s first oil production facility. It’s false.

That title goes to two oil fields in Nido in the Northwest Palawan Shelf, discovered in 1977 and 1978 and started commercial operations in 1979, according to a Department of Energy briefer and news reports. It ceased operations after 40 years in late 2019.

Duterte has made the same sham claim in a speech in November 2018. (See more: VERA FILES FACT CHECK: In one speech, Duterte unloads 9 false claims)

The inaccurate report, which a reader asked VERA Files to verify, bore the headline, “FIRST OIL PRODUCTION FACILITY SA PILIPINAS ‘GUSTO KONG UMIYAK! HINDI TAYO NAKALIMUTAN NG DIYOS!’ IIYAK DILAWAN DITO (First oil production facility in the Philippines ‘I want to cry! God did not forget us!’ Yellows will cry with this)!” The lone paragraph in the story talked about how the opening of the Alegria oil field brought joy to Duterte. It then featured a Feb. 7, 2020 YouTube video with a title similar to the headline, uploaded by the channel BALITANG BALITA TV.

“Yellow” is a colloquial term for members and supporters of the opposition Liberal Party.

Ostensibly meant to draw in viewers by showing Duterte in “tears,” News Viral Online misleadingly spliced together in its thumbnail a 2017 photo of him crying as he met with the families of victims of a Davao City mall fire, and a 2018 image of him leading the ceremonial valve opening of the Alegria Oil Field.

The oil field was scheduled to kick off production testing and drilling in early 2020, according to some news reports last January.

The spurious article could have reached over 1.5 million netizens, according to social media monitoring tool CrowdTangle. Its top three traffic generators are public groups Tatay Digong Supporters, Duterte KFWIPB inc. Kilusang Filipino Walang Iwanan sa PagBabago ng Bayan and Ang Pagbabalik Namin Mga DDS @ SARAH DUTERTE & BBM PARA SA 2022.

News Viral Online started publishing stories just last March 3.

(Editor’s Note: VERA Files has partnered with Facebook to fight the spread of disinformation. Find out more about this partnership and our methodology.)