Senators are gearing up for an inquiry to the controversial deal involving the “prized” Malampaya gas project.
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto voiced concerns regarding pursuing the probe full time as it is campaign season, but expressed his full support for the investigation since it affects the country’s energy security.
Meanwhile, Sen. Francis Pangilinan is nonplussed on why the gas field went to Dennis Uy’s “upstart” Udenna Corporation when the government, through PNOC-Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC), could have exerted its stake over the country’s crucial energy asset. PNOC-EC owns ten percent of Malampaya.
Pangilinan recalled asking Duterte administration officials to explain the government’s failure to exercise its right of first refusal on Malampaya during Tuesday’s Senate hearing on the Department of Energy’s (DOE) 2022 budget that lasted near midnight.
“It is very disturbing to listen to the reason given why the [DOE] did not consider taking or exercising its right of first refusal on the basis of a sweeping, general statement of negative facts and constraints,” Pangilinan said.
“We are given just a broad statement to justify the turnover to a private corporation of a billion-dollar worth of assets. This is incredulous. We deserve a better explanation,” he added.
Senate leaders decided to defer approval of the DOE’s budget and that of its attached agencies, even as officials indicated they were ready to provide senators the “relevant documents and decisions justifying the sale to Udenna.”
Former Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) President Eduardo Mañalac earlier pointed out that the share sales did not make sense since the government would earn billions from Malampaya once its Service Contract 38 expires in 2024, an argument that Surigao Del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel had called as “foolish.”
Udenna first bought Chevron’s 45% share in March 2020. The DOE approved the deal in April this year. A month later, the Davao-based firm bought the other 45% owned by Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. Even as the Shell-Udenna is being reviewed, senators and concerned citizens have criticized Uy’s impending takeover of the gas platform.
Uy was a major campaign contributor of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte in the 2016 elections.