Arroyo to seal oil exploration venture in E. Guinea

Last updated 02:09am (Mla time) 06/27/2007

MANILA, Philippines — Following the move by Western and Asian investors to exploit newly discovered oil reserves in West Africa, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Tuesday flew to Equatorial Guinea in the hope of sealing a joint venture exploration deal with the oil-rich nation.


Ms Arroyo left Singapore on a chartered Philippine Airlines flight and was scheduled to arrive later Tuesday in Equatorial Guinea’s capital Malabo for a 12-hour visit. She returns to Manila on Wednesday.


Ms Arroyo arrived in Singapore on Saturday to attend the World Economic Forum on East Asia and make her second state visit to the city-state.


While in Equatorial Guinea, Ms Arroyo is scheduled to address the People’s Republic Chamber, followed by a meeting with her counterpart, President Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo.


The two leaders are scheduled to witness the signing of an accord for further bilateral cooperation.


A Palace statement said Manila’s friendship with Malabo grew after the state visit to the Philippines of President Mbasogo in May 2006.


“We shall engage Equatorial Guinea bilaterally and multilaterally through the mutual support of each other’s initiatives in the international community. Our countries have a shared agenda of defeating poverty through the New Asia-Africa Strategic Partnership and the United Nations,” the statement quoted Ms Arroyo as saying.


Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said Ms Arroyo’s trip to the West African nation was also crucial to forging a possible joint venture between Philippine National Oil Co.-Energy Development Corp. and its Equatorial Guinea counterpart.


“This is very significant considering that Equatorial Guinea is a major producer of oil, even bigger than Brunei as far as oil production is concerned,” Bunye said.


Bunye said Equatorial Guinea had estimated offshore oil reserves of 1.28 billion barrels. According to him, the African nation lacked technical expertise in offshore drilling which the Philippines could provide.


The press secretary did not provide further details on the proposed joint venture.


Ms Arroyo is also expected to tour the Campo Alba Oil Field Complex and meet with the 2,500 overseas Filipino workers there.


“This will be a good occasion to visit them and ensure that they are treated well by their employers,” she said in her departure statement.


Ms Arroyo will be the first Philippine leader to visit the former Spanish colony that has become one of Africa’s oil producers that include Nigeria, the world’s sixth largest exporter, Angola and Gabon.


A British oil and gas company last week announced that it had discovered up to 600 million barrels of oil on the West Cape Three Points block off Ghana’s coast in West Africa.


In nearby Benin, drilling is soon to begin in the 470-kilometer coastal sedimentary basin that runs from Ghana to Nigeria.


European, American, Australian, Russian and Chinese investors have shown keen interest in the development of the oil industry in West Africa despite the fact the region represents less than a third of the total African production. Africa accounts for less than 12 percent of world production, far behind the Middle East, Russia and Brazil.


Despite the oil riches, an overwhelmingly majority of their people live in dire poverty and earn less than a dollar a day. Critics say the oil riches are enjoyed only by those in power and their associates. With reports from Michael Lim Ubac, Associated Press and Agence France-Presse


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