Red Tape Barrier to Philippine Oil

Oil producers say byzantine regulations pose a bigger barrier than the Chinese navy when it comes to exploiting oil in disputed waters off the Philippines


When the Philippine department of energy told reporters this week it had received four proposals to explore oil and gas blocks off Palawan, the country's westernmost island facing disputed waters in the South China Sea, many of the journalists' questions focused on how Manila's tiny navy could protect research vessels and drilling ships against possible harassment by Chinese vessels.

To be sure, the danger of being confronted by a Chinese warship in the open sea is perhaps one of the greatest operating risks an energy company is likely to face. But for many engaged in exploration and production, it is not necessarily the most pressing worry in the Philippines, nor even the most bothersome.

The day-to-day challenges energy executives find most infuriating involve chasing signatures from up to 200 national and local government officials before they can begin even to carry out seismic studies and eventually drill wells.