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March 22, 2016

Repurpose oil rig, govt told

A LAWMAKER proposed that the Malampaya natural gas rig platform in northwest Palawan be converted into a Philippine Navy outpost once the gas well dries up in the next few years.

“The government should plan ahead and identify possible practical uses for the two massive oil rigs that will eventually be left in place once the supply runs out,” said party-list Rep. Arnel Ty said as China announced it would restructure its military.


“The Malampaya gas wells are bound to dry up, be plugged and abandoned, along with the platforms,” Ty said.

The Malampaya rigs are two large adjacent structures with facilities 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.

Once vacated, the rigs could be converted by the Philippine Navy into an outpost or a marine study center, Ty said.

“The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources could also use the rigs for a marine research hub. Even the Bureau of Corrections can opt to transform the platforms into a high security prison,” Ty said.

Besides its vast hydrocarbon deposits that could help assure the country’s long-term energy requirements, the West Philippine Sea is also home to 20 percent of the country’s fisheries catch, and serves as a breeding ground for high-value aquatic resources, he said.

Discovered in 1991, the Malampaya gas field began commercial production in 2002. The field’s gas is conveyed via a 504-kilometer, 24-inch pipeline to Batangas City, where the fuel drives three power plants with a combined 2,700 megawatts in full generating capacity.

Located 80 kilometers off northwest Palawan, Malampaya has proven reserves of about 3.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which is expected to last until 2024, depending on how aggressively the fuel is harvested.

Based on geological surveys, the United States Energy Information Administration estimates that the West Philippine Sea may contain up to 55.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 5.4 billion barrels of oil, “with the bulk of the resources likely located in the contested Reed Bank at the northeast end of the Spratly Islands.”

Ty made the proposal as China announced on Saturday changes to the structure of its military described by President Xi Jinping as “a major policy decision to realize the Chinese dream of a strong army,” state media reported.

Beijing in November said it planned sweeping changes in a move intended to enhance the ruling Communist Party’s control over the People’s Liberation Army.

The changes announced late Friday will see a new army unit set up to oversee China’s arsenal of strategic missiles.

Besides the “Rocket Force.” the PLA also unveiled an army general command to serve as the headquarters for land forces and a support unit to assist combat troops, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The changes come as China acts more aggressively in territorial disputes in the South China Sea and East China Sea and comes just after Beijing announced on Thursday it is building its second aircraft carrier.

The nation’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, is a secondhand Soviet ship built more than 25 years ago that was commissioned by China in 2012 after extensive refits.

At the same time, Xi, who is chief of the Communist Party and also serves as head of the military, is planning to slash China’s number of troops by 300,000 to roughly two million to craft a more efficient fighting force.

China’s Central Military Commission, which Xi chairs, on Friday also released guidelines to help build the country’s vision of a modern military before 2020 by cutting troops and improving the quality of combat personnel, Xinhua said.

The new PLA Rocket Force is tasked with maintaining conventional and nuclear weaponry with the ability to both deter and strike, Xi told a ceremony for the founding of the three new organizations, according to Xinhua.

But a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Defence denied any shift in the country’s nuclear weapons policy.

“China’s nuclear policy and nuclear strategy are consistent, there has been no change whatsoever,” spokesman Yang Yujun said Friday, according to a transcript posted on the ministry’s website.

The new unit would take over from the Second Artillery Force, he said.

Beijing’s forces have been involved in sometimes tense confrontations with Japanese and Philippine units over maritime disputes in the East China Sea and South China Sea respectively, prompting fears that the disputes could result in armed clashes. With AFP

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