Bangladesh Parliamentary Body Urges to Quicken Offshore Gas Deals

A parliamentary committee yesterday recommended that the government finalize the production sharing contact (PSC) with two foreign companies on gas exploration bids for three offshore blocks soon as it feared further delay might hamper the country's interests.

In defence of the recommendation, the parliamentary standing committee on power, energy and mineral resources ministry observed that crisis might occur due to delay in starting the exploration.

"India and Myanmar [Burma] have already started gas exploration in their offshore blocks, and if we delay, they might capture our gas resources using sophisticated technologies," Maj-Gen (retd) Shubid Ali Bhuiyan, chairman of the committee, told reporters after the meeting at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban.

"The more we will delay in gas exploration at the off-shore, the more we will loose and crisis will increase further as well," he said.
Shubid Ali, also a ruling Awami League lawmaker, said many wars and conflicts are seen over oil and gas issues in the past and it may happen again in future.

"Therefore it's urgent to finalise the production sharing contact with two foreign companies on gas exploration to avert any possible crisis in this regard," he added.

Ireland-based company Tullow Bangladesh has been awarded shallow water block SS-08-05 while US oil company ConocoPhillips South Asia New Ventures Ltd deep sea blocks DS-08-10 and 11.

The parliamentary body also has taken a "go slow" policy to sit with the national committee to protect oil, gas and mineral resources on awarding the three off-shore blocks saying that the national committee is now divided into two factions.

The committee also said at present corruption and irregularities are also going on in the power and energy ministry and asked the ministry officials to go tough on checking those.

It said the committee members will visit the ministry soon to talk to some officials about curbing corruption and irregularities.

Shubid Ali also outright rejected the allegation of national committee to protect oil, gas and mineral resources that the government has made a blue print to hand over the country's resources to the foreign companies in exchange of mutual interest.

"Without reading the contact properly they (the national committee) are talking silly. Ours is sovereign country. How come anyone can snatch our sovereignty," a lamenting Shubid Ali asked.

On corruption, the committee chief said corruption is still going on in the ministry including meter reading. "We have asked the ministry officials to check corruption at any cost," he said.

Asked about the proposed talk with the leaders of the national committee to protect oil and gas, Shubid Ali said, "We will take time to sit with the leaders of the national committee as they have split into several factions." "We will sit with them later at a convenient time," he added.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary body on September 16 said they will arrange a views exchange meeting with the leaders of the national committee in its next meeting to discuss the much-debated awarding of three offshore gas blocks to the foreign companies.

The leaders of the national committee on September 20 said they are ready to sit with the standing committee if they are invited formally.

The cabinet committee on economic affairs on August 24 approved oil and gas exploration bids for three offshore blocks under the condition that the explorers would not work in the internationally disputed maritime areas until the dispute is resolved.

As per the cabinet decision, the two companies are allowed to explore the areas of the blocks not claimed by Myanmar or India.

The national committee that enforced a half-day hartal [general strike] in the city on September 14 gave an ultimatum to the government till October 15 to cancel the decision of giving offshore gas exploration rights to the two foreign companies.

It claims the contracts would oblige the government to export up to 80 percent of the gas to be extracted from the offshore fields.

BBC Monitoring. Copyright BBC.