Energy Undersecretary Jay Layug

MANILA — In the roster of companies which submitted pre-qualification proposals for 15 oil and gas service areas being offered for drilling by the Philippine government, foreign investors have dominated the list of prospective “bigticket newcomers” in the country’s upstream petroleum sector.

Energy Undersecretary Jay Layug said that some 20 companies submitted pre-qualification proposals for the oil and gas blocks slated for auction in five months starting March, this year. “They have not specified the areas they are interested in yet … they are still evaluating data,” he said.

The energy official did not give the names of the interested parties, but he hinted that “there are big companies which are not players in the industry yet.”

In a document gathered from highly placed industry sources, it was shown that a number of them are European and American investors – including Italian firm Eni S.p.A; French firms GDF Suez and Total E&P, and American firm CalEnergy which is reportedly looking at investment opportunities via an Asia-Pacific subsidiary.

Esso, which serves as US giant ExxonMobil’s international trading vehicle, is also in the list, but it was not specified if its prospective re-entry will be done directly through ExxonMobil exploration arm or via the Malaysian investment synergy concluded recently with diversifying conglomerate San Miguel Corp.

A prominent Chinese firm SouthernPec Corp. is also in the list. It is referred to as the “reformed subordinate enterprise” of China’s Sinopec group.

The other companies which may be tagged as “newcomers” are Cayman Islands-registered KrisEnergy and Australian firm Planet Gas.

The so-called “old-timers” include Monte Oro, PetroEnergy, Nido Petroleum, NorAsian Energy, Pitkin Petroleum, Philex Petroleum, Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. and Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation.

Filipino-owned and other Asian firms have also been logged as pre-qualified bidders in the offered blocks. These include Minergy, Mindanao Asia, Dilmoro Energy Corp. And Forum Pacific and Golden Dragon.

Based on feedback from investors, the Department of Energy (DoE) has decided on paced bidding for various blocks – with the first batch set next month.

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It has been the government’s wish to find additional oil and gas so the country would have new sources of energy that could bring it closer to its energy security aspirations.

Compared to other Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines is relatively lagging behind when it comes to development of indigenous oil and gas resources – either due to lackluster interest of investors arising from policy flip-flops or high-risk technical propositions on the petroleum blocks previously offered. (Myrna Velasco, MB)