Companies in the Philippines will resume offshore oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea, after President Rodrigo Duterte lifted a moratorium that had been in place since 2014. 

The country’s energy department confirmed the approval late on 16 October, adding that the resumption of activities is ‘an urgent imperative’ to boost domestic energy security as other reserves become depleted. 

A ‘resume to work’ order has been issued to service contractors operating three exploration blocks in the region, whose activities had been suspended under the previous ban. 

Former president Benigno Aquino halted activities six years ago amid territorial disputes with China, which has claimed sovereignty over much of the South China Sea. 

A 2016 ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration has since dismissed these claims under UN conventions.