By Ernie Reyes
MANILA — Senator Win Gatchalian wasted no time in commending the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) during the last Senate Energy Committee hearing after it disclosed that it will withhold its consent on the sale of Shell Philippines Exploration B.V.’s (SPEX) stakes to Malampaya Energy XP Pte. Ltd., a subsidiary of Dennis Uy-led Udenna Corp., in the Malampaya Deep Water Gas-to-Power Project.
“This clearly shows that the company put first the interest of the Filipinos and the generations to come,” said Gatchalian.
“This is an asset of future concern. 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,” he added.
With this development, SPEX legal manager Kiril Caral said that they won’t push through with the sale of its 45% operating stake in Malampaya.
“Without the consent of the PNOC-EC we will not be able to proceed with the completion at the moment,” Caral told Gatchalian when asked if the company will still pursue the sale.
In a Senate Energy Committee hearing last July 14, PNOC president and CEO retired Lt. Gen. Rozzano Briguez told Gatchalian 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 and it might affect the operational stability of Malampaya especially in prompt decision-making that’s required of a very complex offshore exploration company.
He also cited the reason for the availability of funds since government banks are only willing to lend them only up to 50% 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.
But when Gatchalian sought the reason behind PNOC-EC’s 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.
In the spirit of transparency, Gatchalian said he will request 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. Whatever their reasons in refusing to give their consent to the Udenna Group’s acquisition of Shell’s 45% stake in the Malampaya project, we can now be assured that the chances of having one of the country’s most important national assets being under the control of a seeming unqualified company has dwindled, if not, already nil in possibility,” Gatchalian said.