PBA joins IBP in calling for scrapping of Malampaya sale
MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Bar Association (PBA), the country’s oldest organization of lawyers, added its voice on Monday in urging the Department of Energy (DOE) to rescind the controversial sale of the controlling stakes in Malampaya natural gas fields to a company owned by Davao businessman Dennis Uy.
The PBA said the DOE should put a premium on national interest in scrutinizing the contracts that allowed Uy’s Udenna Corp. to secure 90 percent of Malampaya’s gas pipelines.
Uy is a known close associate and campaign donor of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“Malampaya is a crown jewel of the country’s energy infrastructure. That it ended up in the hands of an entity that is not technically or financially sound is beyond negligent, it is criminal,” the PBA said in a statement.
“Shorn of all the smoke and mirrors, the irrefutable fact stands: What the DOE itself calls the backbone of the country’s power generation mix is now in the hands of an untested and unknown entity,” it said.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) had earlier issued a similar statement as they called on the Office of the Ombudsman to hasten the investigation of the complaint filed against Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and several others for approving the deal in 2019.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros had filed a resolution asking the Senate blue ribbon committee to conduct an inquiry into several government contracts awarded to Uy, including the Malampaya natural gas project.
Chiefly financed by loans, Udenna bought for $545 million the 45-percent share of Chevron Malampaya LLC. It then acquired for $380 million the 45-percent stake of Shell Philippines Exploration B.V.
The PBA said it would be best to allow Chevron and Shell to continue operating Malampaya due to security and economic risks, noting that the natural gas fields had been supplying 40 percent of the power demand of the entire Luzon island.
It described as “unsatisfactory” the DOE’s claim that the contracts entered into by private companies were beyond its authority.
“What is concerned is not a car, a building, or any ordinary asset … It is a facility that sits right smack in the area that has grave national security implications,” the lawyers said.
“Malampaya is a critical piece of our national sovereignty and security. It cannot remain where it has been negligently left,” they said.
But the DOE on Monday described as “thoughtless” the involvement of the IBP in the acquisition of Uy of a controlling stake in the Malampaya Deepwater Gas-to-Power Project.
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