News & Events

March 22, 2016

Malampaya platform eyed as prison

Picture this: a prison island in the middle of the West Philippine Sea.

This is one of the proposals made at the House of Representatives concerning what to do with the Malampaya offshore facility in Palawan once its supply of natural gas runs out.

LPGMA party-list Rep. Arnel Ty, a member of the House energy committee, yesterday proposed converting the Malampaya platforms, located some 80 kilometers off northwest Palawan, into a high-security prison island à la Alcatraz.

Although the Malampaya field is seen to remain productive for a few more years, the wells “are bound to dry up, be plugged and abandoned, along with the platforms,” said Ty, who  proposed a number of other ways that the government could make use of the facility once it is decommissioned.

“The Bureau of Corrections can opt to transform the platforms into a high-security prison,” he said, noting how terribly overcrowded the country’s jails are, including the 8,700-capacity New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, which has more than 22,000 inmates.

Described by its operators as an “island of steel and concrete,” the Malampaya facility is composed of two large adjacent structures with wells to extract natural gas and oil from undersea reservoirs.

“The platforms are built to withstand typhoons and earthquakes. One of the rigs can house 60 workers and has a helipad,” Ty said.

But he did not explain or provide details on how many prisoners could be accommodated once the platforms are turned into jails, and how their safety could be ensured.

At present, because of safety reasons, only 59 people—who are transported by helicopter—are allowed on one of the Malampaya platforms at any given time, according to a GMA 7 documentary by Sandra Aguinaldo titled “Islang Bakal” in 2014.

It was explained that the number of people allowed on to a platform was limited to 59 because only this number of people could be evacuated by lifeboat.

Malampaya derives natural gas from the Camago-Malampaya reservoir, a gigantic reserve of natural gas discovered in 1992 by Shell Philippines Exploration B.V.

The Malampaya wells tap into 2.7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves located some 3,000 meters below sea level, according to the Malampaya project’s website.

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