Russia also invites PH to explore oil and gas there

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Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev (L) and President Rodrigo Duterte (R). (Photo courtesy: JOEY DALUMPINES/PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 26) — Russia has reciprocated President Rodrigo Duterte's invitation for a joint oil and gas exploration.

"We also invite Filipinos, the Philippine companies, to explore oil and gas in Russia together with Russian companies... not only here in the Philippines but in Russia as well on a mutually beneficial, reciprocal basis," Russian Ambassador to the Philippines Igor Khovaev said in a media forum on Saturday.

It should be a "two-way street," Khovaev said, adding that if Russian companies would come to the Philippines for oil exploration, Filipino firms should also be able to do so in Russia.

Khovaev noted that drilling for oil and natural gas is "much more difficult" under the harsh climate conditions in the Arctic, but stressed that Russia has the "most advanced technologies."

Early this month, Duterte invited Russian energy giant Rosneft to invest in oil and gas development in the Philippines.

Rosneft provides 10 percent of Vietnam's energy needs. It operates in waters contested by China, prompting much opposition from the East Asian giant.

The Philippines is also in talks with China for a controversial joint exploration in disputed areas.

Recto Bank or Reed Bank, located west of Palawan, has been floated as the possible site of the joint exploration. China claims it as part of its territorial waters, but a 2016 UN arbitral ruling, which it rejects, says the area is part of the Philippines' exclusive economic zone and contentinal shelf, where Manila has exclusive sovereign rights.

A memorandum of agreement between Manila and Beijing states all negotiations and projects done under the joint exploration "will be without prejudice to the respective legal positions of both governments."

A possible deal with Russia would have no similar complications since the Philippines has no overlapping claims with the transcontinental country. Duterte has forged stronger ties with both Russia and China.

READ: Russia working on Putin's first visit to PH

Duterte's second visit to Russia this month resulted in 10 business agreements estimated worth around $12.57 million or roughly ₱650 million. This includes an agreement to explore the possible construction of nuclear power plants in the Philippines.

Khovaev on Saturday said Russia understands that the use of nuclear energy is a "very sensitive issue" amid safety concerns. He assured the Philippines that the Russian technologies "are the safest and the most sophisticated ones."

"Russia is building nuclear power plants in about 30 countries. Many power plants have already built and they are functioning well. No incident reported," he said.

The Philippines' first and only nuclear power station, the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, was mothballed over corruption and safety issues, compounded by fears that followed the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Russia's Rosatom State Atomic Energy Corporation has offered to build floating nuclear power plants in the country.