Hontiveros questions timing of ‘sweetheart deal’ in Malampaya shares; urges transparency in Udenna takeover

Hontiveros questions timing of ‘sweetheart deal’ in Malampaya shares; urges transparency in Udenna takeover

By Ernie Reyes

MANILA — Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday called “questionably and unbelievably convenient” the takeover of the country’s strategic energy assets by an Udenna Corporation subsidiary incorporated only weeks before the government announced the non-renewal of a service contract then covering the Malampaya Deepwater Gas to Power Project.

During the Senate probe on Udenna’s acquisition of a controlling stake over the Malampaya project, Hontiveros said that closer public scrutiny is needed over the many “questionable” aspects of the takeover by the firm led by Dennis Uy, a close friend and campaign backer of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Citing existing documents, Hontiveros pointed out that Udenna Corporation subsidiary Udenna Corporation Malampaya (UC Malampaya) was incorporated only on September 1, 2019 or only 18 days before the Department of Energy (DOE) announced the non-renewal of Service Contract 38 then covering activities in the Malampaya. UC Malampaya, despite a non-existent background in energy exploration, later acquired the Malampaya shares of Chevron and Shell Philippines.

“The timing is suspiciously convenient. Either they have employed very good fortune-tellers, or Udenna was provided with advance notice, among other inordinate advantages. Is the country’s strategic energy asset being sold in a last-minute sweetheart deal?” Hontiveros asked.

Hontiveros said that in less than two months, UC Malampaya had “dubiously already entered into a Sales and Purchase Agreement to acquire Chevron’s 45% participating interest for $565 MM, when it was not even clear that UC Malampaya has sufficient background in energy exploration.”

“Wala pang dalawang buwang naitatatag ang UC Malampaya ay nagkaroon na agad ito ng Sales and Purchase Agreement to acquire Chevron’s shares. Mukhang alam ng Udenna ang shortcut sa pagtake over ng critical services at infrastructure ng bansa. Mula sa Dito Telecoms, hanggang sa Comelec logistics contract, ngayon dito sa Malampaya. Ito ba ang mukha ng cronyism sa taong 2021?,” she added.

She then pointed out that UC Malampaya is a duly registered company in Singapore and not in the Philippines, based on the documents from Singapores’ Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority.

“Did we just hand off our strategic energy assets to a foreign firm? Why? And how sure are we that there is no “mystery buyer”, most likely a foreign power, waiting in the shadows to assume control over our energy sector?” Hontiveros said.

Hontiveros urged the DOE to be more transparent about Udenna’s takeover of the Malampaya project, in order to address growing doubts and concerns over the said deal.

“Kung may anomalya at pagkakamali, dapat ay itama ito. Huwag tayong magbulag-bulagan. Tandaan natin, hindi lang enerhiya at ekonomiya natin ang nakasalalay dito, kundi pati ang ating kalayaan at soberanya,” she concluded. (ai/mtvn)

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