DOE seeks 'proper forum' to tackle Malampaya issues

Published November 29, 2021, 3:39 PM

by Myrna M. Velasco

The Department of Energy (DOE) indicated that it will reply to and would tackle all allegations on the sale of Malampaya shares in a proper forum, including in a fair trial that may be carried out in judicial bodies.

In its response to the issues thrown by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), the energy department said it “shall respond to any allegation against it in the proper forum and in due time.”

The DOE cried foul for being maligned in the go-signal it had accorded to the 45-percent Malampaya shares divestment of American energy giant Chevron Corporation to a corporate vehicle of Udenna Corporation of businessman Dennis A. Uy.

“It is unfortunate for the IBP to issue a sweeping statement against the Malampaya transaction without first checking the facts and applicable laws,” the DOE stressed, adding that “the lawyers’ organization, which is supposed to uphold and defend the law, has fallen victim to hearsay and sheer allegations.”

The DOE further noted that it is greatly disappointed with IBP’s supposed “thoughtless involvement,” in the controversy. DOE, which is led by Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, who is also president of PDP-Laban, also opined that the organization has been “allowing itself to be used by unscrupulous interest groups.”

It added “all these – tending to erode public confidence in the DOE – are unbecoming of the very institution whose mission is to improve the administration of justice.”

While wranglings over the Malampaya shares sale are still raging, including the anticipated closing of Udenna’s another transaction with Shell by the end of this year, the DOE had given word that it “shall continue to uphold its mandate under the law.”

Energy Assistant Secretary Gerardo D. Erguiza Jr. previously pointed out that the “bigger questions being overlooked” in that controversial sale process, had been the very reason why Chevron unloaded its shareholdings in the Malampaya gas-to-power project and why Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEX) opted not to match the offer of Udenna prior to the closing of the transaction in March 2020.

Erguiza further contended “looking at the current overflow of reasoning that has been coming out of the woodwork, the argument has become that Shell – in making its business decision not to match Udenna’s offer – was being prudent. But in PNOC-EC’s case, its business decision not to match Udenna’s offer as well, was a foolish one. Why is there ‘double standard’ so to speak?”

State-run subsidiary Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC) is a minority shareholder with 10-percent equity in the Malampaya project. As such, PNOC-EC has equal right to match the buyer’s offer in the asset within the purview of the joint operating agreement (JOA) of the consortium-members in that upstream gas venture.

The position of many parties that are opposing the sale of the Malampaya shares to Udenna, including the Senate, is for government-owned PNOC-EC to have exercised its rights of first refusal and should have positioned itself instead to be the taker of the divested shareholdings of the foreign partners.