THE head of the Senate energy panel promptly commended the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) at Monday’s Senate Energy Committee hearing after PNOC officials confirmed they will not consent to the sale of Shell Philippines Exploration B.V.’s (SPEX) stakes to Malampaya Energy XP Pte. Ltd., a subsidiary of Udenna Corp. led by Davao businessman Dennis Uy, in the Malampaya Deep Water Gas-to-Power Project.
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian observed that “this clearly shows that the company (PNOC) put first the interest of the Filipinos and the generations to come.”
In a statement, the senator pointed out that “this is an asset of future concern,” adding, “I laud PNOC’s decision and that it will not be put to waste because we recognize that it was made in order to protect the interest of the country.”
Gatchalian noted that “with this development, SPEX legal manager Kiril Caral indicated they won’t push through with the sale of its 45-percent operating stake in Malampaya.”
Asked by the senator pointblank if it will still pursue the sale, Caral told the Senate panel that, “without the consent of the PNOC-EC we will not be able to proceed with the completion at the moment.”
The Senator recalled that in a hearing last July 14, PNOC president and CEO retired Lt. Gen. Rozzano Briguez told him that they waived the right to match the offer to acquire SPEX’s shares because the government is constrained by many laws to operate this type of business, adding that ‘it might affect the operational stability of Malampaya especially in prompt decision-making that’s required of a very complex offshore exploration company.”
The lawmaker recalled another issue raised on the availability of funds since government banks are only willing to lend them only up to 50 percent of the needed amount.
“Because if no government bank will lend to us a specific amount, then that will also compromise the other projects that we have,” Briguez was quoted saying.
However, when the senator asked for the reason behind PNOC-EC’s apparent turnabout and its decision to withhold its consent to the SPEX-Udenna deal, Briguez politely begged off from further providing details as they have yet to fully discuss the matter with their other partners and stockholders.
Gatchalian, in turn, said that in the spirit of transparency, he will move for an executive session for a comprehensive briefing as to how PNOC-EC arrived at such a decision.
“I would like to give credit where credit is due and that is to the PNOC,” the senator stressed. “Whatever their reasons in refusing to give their consent to the Udenna Group’s acquisition of Shell’s 45-percent stake in the Malampaya project, we can now be assured that the chances of having one of the country’s most important national asset being under the control of a seeming unqualified company has dwindled, if not, already nil in possibility,” he added.