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Middle Eastern firms keen on exploring Sulu Sea for oil, gas

 Middle Eastern companies are keen on exploring the Sulu Sea for oil and gas, reflecting the increased interest of investors in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), the Department of Energy (DOE) said Friday.

“The areas in the Sulu Sea are relatively underexplored…Now, because of their [Middle Eastern companies] greater confidence that the administration is welcoming foreign investments, they have expressed interest… in doing exploration activities in the Sulu Sea area,” Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla said.

Lotilla said the DOE and the BARMM Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Energy signed in July the intergovernmental energy board (IEB) circular on the joint award of petroleum service contracts and coal operating contracts in the BARMM.

The circular operationalizes the provision of Section 10, Article XIII of Republic Act No. 11054 or the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region to jointly grant rights, privileges and concessions for the exploration, development and utilization of uranium and fossil fuels such as petroleum, natural gas and coal within the jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro.

“We already have a number who have discussed with us, and [we are] not yet at liberty to tell you which company, but definitely it is a major company that is looking at opportunities again in the end especially in the offshore areas between Sulu and Mindanao, that area,” Lotilla said.

Lotilla expressed hope more Middle Eastern countries would invest in the energy sector in the Bangsamoro region.

“In the case of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates and the Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, we would like them to particularly invest in the Bangsamoro region,” Lotilla said.

“Because while we are not limiting their investment interests in these areas, there is a natural affinity and there is great interest on their part to be able to help out in Bangsamoro region. So we hope that we can look forward to deepening our cooperation with these countries,” the energy chief said.

He said Qatar was looking at opportunities in the natural gas industry, while the United Arab Emirates was keen on renewable energy projects.

“So we are welcoming these opportunities for them to  come to the Philippines as well…We will do our best to make sure that the foreign investors indeed find a welcoming investment climate in the country,” Lotilla said.

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