Two oil exploration deals await Duterte's signature — DOE

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 7) — Two joint oil and gas exploration deals in the West Philippine Sea await President Rodrigo Duterte's signature, the Department of Energy said Wednesday.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi did not specify the deals' terms of agreements, but noted that one may be signed by the Philippine National Oil Company in partnership with a China state-owned oil producer, China National Offshore Oil Corporation.

"Well, there are two (deals up for signature)," Cusi said in a Malacañang media briefing.

"If I remember, (it's) service contract number 57 and this is an issue of farming-in for a company-to-be… because that service contract is owned by PNOC-EC (Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation) and they needed a partner to pursue further exploration and exploitation if (and) when the time comes," he told reporters.

"So, they have been looking for partners and one partner that (has) shown that interest is the CNOOC (China National Offshore Oil Corporation)," Cusi said.

"So, that needs amendment and, as we have submitted our recommendation for each amendment, so that we can already sign that exploration," he added.

Palace officials previously said an agreement could be signed this month in time for Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to the country.

But Cusi said he would rather not disclose whether a deal will be signed before or during Xi's visit.

"Well, I don't like to preempt what will be the discussion during the visit of President Xi Jinping, and the topics are being taken care of by DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs)," Cusi said.

He added that the department has also recommended the lifting of the moratorium on oil and gas explorations in the West Philippine Sea, to move forward with an agreement with China. 

In 2012, former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III issued a ban on all exploration and drilling works in the West Philippine Sea amid rising tension with China.

On October 17, the country inked a deal with Israel firm Ratio Petroleum Ltd.-- allowing it to explore the waters east of Palawan for oil and gas resources. This was the first Petroleum Service Contract signed by the Duterte administration.