By Chris Castro | www.esquiremag.ph
The transfer of the Malampaya Gas Field Facility to Malampaya Energy XP Pte., a unit of Udenna Corp, presents significant security risks, and thus ought to be revoked, the Philippine Bar Association (PBA) said in a statement.
The lawyers’ group urged the government to revoke to revoke the transfer of the gas field to the group controlled by Davao-based businessman Dennis A. Uy, who is a known ally of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The PBA called Malampaya Energy an “untested and unknown entity” and has asked the Department of Energy to intervene.
“We call on the DOE to put national interest first and attend to the matters that became the convenient premise for this questionable transfer,” the statement read.
Malampaya Energy XP acquired the shares of Shell Philippines Exploration BV (SPEX), which previously led the operations and maintenance of the gas field. Philippine National Oil Co. Exploration Corp. is a member of the consortium that operates Malampaya. Udenna Corp., in turn, owns a majority holding in Malampaya.
The PBA suggested that the original operators may continue running the gas field “rather than transferring the facility to an entity that presents significant security risks.”
“The government has not been shy in applying a militarized pandemic approach against ordinary citizens,” the group said. “That mindset would have been more suited in guarding a precious national asset.”
The PBA called “unsatisfactory” the assertion that the transfer is a private transaction and is thus not subject to review.
“It is not a simple matter of making the transaction transparent and understandable, and therefore acceptable. Malampaya is a critical piece of our national sovereignty and security. It cannot remain where it has been negligently left. The transaction requires immediate review.
“Malampaya is a crown jewel of the country’s Energy infrastructure,” it added. “That it ended up in the hands of an entity that is not technically or financially sound is beyond negligent, it is criminal,” the statement added.
The PBA’s statement follows the one issued by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, which likewise called for the cancellation of the Malampaya deal with Uy’s company and asked the government to take over. Some lawmakers have raised questions about the financing capabilities and the expertise of the company to operate and maintain the gas field.
Responding to the IBP’s statement, the DOE said the group’s “sweeping statement against the Malampaya transaction without first checking the facts and applicable laws” has “unduly maligned” the department and its officials.
“The lawyers’ organization, which is supposed to uphold and defend the law, has fallen victim to hearsay and sheer allegations,” the DOE said. “The IBP’s thoughtless involvement, allowing itself to be used by unscrupulous interest groups, greatly disappoints.”
However, the DOE did not address issues pertaining to the transaction, but said it will “respond to any allegation against it in the proper forum and in due time.”