The Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) reportedly said that it aims to start an energy exploration venture with China’s state-owned CNOOC in the South China Sea by next year.

The latest news was announced by PNOC-Exploration president Rozzano Briguez, Reuters reported.

In 2005, PNOC was awarded ‘Service Contract 57’ by the Department of Energy. The contract covers the Calamian oil and gas prospect, near the Malampaya natural gas discovery in the Philippines.

The Malampaya field is located 80km off the coast of Palawan Island, in the Republic of the Philippines.

Service Contract 57 is among the five exploration projects in the Philippines that can now proceed following the country’s decision to lift a six-year-old ban on energy-related activities in the S.China Sea.

According to Reuters, the prospect may have natural gas reserves equivalent to two-thirds of Malampaya field’s 2.9tcf-3.2tcf based on initial studies.

In a senate budget hearing, the news agency cited Briguez as stating: “By the fourth quarter next year we can start drilling, and if we will be lucky, by 2026 or early 2027, production will start for SC 57.”

Based on the recent projection of the energy department, Malampaya is estimated to dry up by 2027.

In 2006, CNOOC bought a 51% stake while Mitra Energy took 21% in the Calamian prospect, leaving the remaining 28% with PNOC Exploration.