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Petroamazonas to explore blocks that don't receive bids -Correa

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Ecuador's state company Petroamazonas will explore new oil blocks in the Amazon jungle if they fail to draw interest from foreign energy firms, President Rafael Correa said on Tuesday during a visit to the region.

Last week, the government said it had received bids for just four of 16 oil blocks that it estimates could hold a total of 1.5 billion barrels of crude. A new auction for the blocks which did not receive offers is planned for next year.

"The policy will be that Petroamazonas explores the blocks that aren't very interesting to the private and foreign oil companies," Correa told reporters in the Amazon city of Tena.

The government said last week that Spain's Repsol and China's Andes Petroleum made offers for three blocks in the area, while Petroamazonas, with Chile's Enap and Belorusneft of Belarus, will begin developing a fourth block.

The blocks are in the Amazon provinces of Pastaza and Morona Santiago, near the Peruvian border and on the edge of Yasuni park, one of the world's most important ecological reserves.

The auction of the blocks has drawn heavy criticism from indigenous communities that live immediately around the fields.

Correa said his socialist government needed more resources to fight poverty. "We must find more reserves to exploit responsibly, in terms of the environment and society," he said.

Ecuador, the smallest member of OPEC, produces 520,000 barrels of oil a day on average.