KUCHING, July 5 — Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Openg clarified today said that only the Sarawak state government can issue licences to oil and gas companies operating in its territorial waters.

“We have never given up the licensing right to Petronas. It is in the Malaysian Constitution. It is our right. How can we give up our right? It is just speculation,” he told reporters after handing over Petronas sponsorships for Sarawak students here today.

The chief minister was asked if it is true that the state government has given up its authority to issue licences to oil and gas companies to Petronas.

According to a news report published in The Malaysian Reserve, oil and gas (O&G) players would be allowed to operate as Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas)-licensed companies in Sarawak as long as they comply with the state’s new requirements.

It quoted Malaysian O&G Services Council (MOGSC) president Sharifah Zaida Nurlisha Syed Ibrahim as saying that the guidance was provided by Petronas, in relation to Sarawak assuming regulatory control over its O&G resources via state-owned vehicle Petroleum Sarawak Bhd (Petros).

“Petronas is talking with Petros to leverage on the current arrangement, whereby O&G companies will be allowed to operate in Sarawak with Petronas licensing as long as they comply with tweaking with regard to localisation.

“Ultimately, the status quo will remain, but with tweaks from Petros to allow for localisation (of certain services and activities),” she was quoted by TMR.

Abang Johari said the state government is negotiating with Petronas at the moment on the question of participating in oil and gas exploration.

“It is a question of equity. In principle, we have agreed. It is a question of quantum in our participation in oil and gas exploration. One is in term of equity and secondly, assuming that there is a new oil well, how we should come in,” he said.

He said Sarawak’s participation in the exploration at present is through Petronas Carigali Sdn Bhd, but now wants Petros to come in as well.