Pres. Rodrigo Duterte defended Energy Sec. Alfonso Cusi and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) approval of Udenna Corporation’s acquisition of Chevron’s 45% stake in the Malampaya gas-to-power project, saying the controversy over the deal caused the chief executive “grave concern.”
“Energy Sec. Cusi has my full trust and confidence and shall remain at the helm of the department he heads,” Duterte said in a statement released late Friday.
“I have seen the report on the sale and purchase of the stock of Chevron Malampaya LLC. Based on this, I am convinced that this was a private transaction between private entities that must be respected,” the President added.
The statement came just a few hours after Cusi released his own pronouncement rejecting the call of Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian for him to resign over the allegedly anomalous transaction. Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, personally handed his chamber’s recommendations to file charges against Cusi and 11 other current and former DOE officials to the Office of the Ombudsman that same morning.
Duterte slammed the “political antics of some members of the Senate,” which he believes placed the recent developments of the Malampaya Gas Field in a “bad light.”
“This casts undue, undeserved, and unwarranted aspersion on the part of some of our key government officials. This is grossly unfair to them and to the public. I will not allow this valuable resource to be jeopardized and embroiled in the political antics of some members of the Senate,” Duterte said.
In his privilege speech last week, Gatchalian said the committee found that UC Malampaya – an indirect subsidy of Udenna, had negative working capital of $137.2 million. The senator, then, stressed that allowing a company in “financial turmoil” to own a large stake in Malampaya – the country’s only major source of indigenous fuel – would endanger the country’s energy security.
The President also told lawmakers to keep their hands off on such matters.
“I am calling on our legislators to ensure that our ability to compete is not jeopardized by political intrigues and innuendoes. Leave business transactions in the capable hands of the business sector. Let us respect their business decisions while we protect our national interests,” Duterte said.
Udenna bought Shell’s 45% stake in May 2021, but was blocked after PNOC-Exploration Corporation, which owns ten percent of Malampaya, withheld its consent on the sale.
Uy was one of Duterte’s major campaign donors during the 2016 presidential run. Cusi, meanwhile, is the current president of administration party PDP-Laban.