Palawan rejects offer to settle row on gas share
PUERTO PRINCESA CITY—The national government has expressed willingness to settle a case pending at Supreme Court over Palawan’s demand for a share of royalty from the Malampaya natural gas project, offering to give to the province 10 percent of the total Malampaya royalty.
The position was expressed in a brief submitted recently by Philippine National Oil Co.-Exploration Corp. (PNOC-EC) to the high court, which is set to rule on Palawan’s petition for recognition of jurisdiction over the Camago Malampaya gas deposits off the province’s northern region in the West Philippine Sea.
The provincial board of Palawan, at a session on Tuesday, rejected the PNOC stand and is set to submit its opposition to the high court.
From 40 to 10
The PNOC-EC, while maintaining the government’s position that the offshore energy deposit is outside the territorial jurisdiction of Palawan, has proposed that Palawan receive only 10 percent of the Malampaya royalty, instead of 40 percent which the province has been demanding based on the Local Government Code’s provision on royalty sharing.
The fund, according to the compromise proposal, shall be kept in an Energy Investment Trust but will be administered only the PNOC-EC and may be used only for energy-related projects in the province.
“We believe that the province of Palawan is not entitled to receive a portion of the royalty from the Malampaya fund because the natural gas platform is some 85 kilometers from the nearest town of Palawan,” said Pedro A. Aquino Jr., PNOC-EC president and chief executive officer, in the letter to the high court dated July 6, 2015.
The PNOC-EC offer was flatly rejected by the civil society group Kilusang Love Malampaya, led by Palawan Bishop Pedro Arigo, that filed the motion pending at the high court.
Bishop Arigo described the government proposal as “hideously disadvantageous and insensible to the people of Palawan.”
“Palawan has long been deprived of its share from the Malampaya project because of dissenting opinions and positions raised by the national government,” Arigo said.
The Inquirer also learned that several Cabinet officials were earlier instructed by President Aquino to meet with Palawan officials, led by Gov. Jose Alvarez, to discuss a possible compromise deal.
The provincial government is seeking the release of the fund, primarily to finance a P53 billion energy master plan it had recently formulated.
A Cabinet source involved in the negotiation, however, said Malacañang has backtracked from the talks and may simply allow the high court to rule on the petition.
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