By Lade Jean Kabagani
MANILA – The attempt of senators running in the coming May 2022 polls to torpedo the Malampaya sale to a Filipino businessman “will benefit an Indonesia oligarch,” according to columnist Rigoberto Tiglao.
In his February 16 column published in the Manila Times, Tiglao said Senators Risa Hontiveros, Sherwin Gatchalian, and Vicente Sotto III, are taking advantage of the nation’s focus on the May 2022 polls to pressure the Department of Energy (DOE) to cancel the USD560-million sale of the US multinational Chevron Malampaya LLC’s 45 percent stake in the Malampaya Gas Field Project to Davao City-based businessman Dennis Uy in October 2019.
“The three senators have been pressuring, through four different proposed Senate resolutions since November 2020, the Energy Department to cancel the transaction by threatening criminal and administrative charges against them — not just against Energy Secretary Al Cusi but 11 other officials, mostly mid-level, who have had distinguished, impeccable careers at the energy department,” Tiglao wrote in his column.
The Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEX) also sold its 45 percent stake to Uy’s Udenna Corp. for USD460 million in May last year.
Tiglao said the Malampaya Gas Field has been providing the country with natural gas equivalent to a fifth of our energy consumption since 2002, with only 10 percent of its profits going to the government-controlled Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC).
“Now that a Filipino tycoon, Dennis Uy, has been able to acquire those 90 percent shares, these three senators shamelessly want to block it, I think, in aid of reelection,” he said.
Tiglao sees the Senate’s moves will only allow an Indonesian oligarch, Antoni Salim, to own 45 percent of the Malampaya shares.
“What makes this so abhorrent is that the beneficiary of this plot if it is successful — according to my sources in Malacañang and bolstered by documents as well as the sequence of events — is the Hong Kong-based First Pacific conglomerate, owned 45 percent mainly by the Indonesian oligarch Antoni Salim),” Tiglao said.
Tiglao noted that Salim’s conglomerate PXP Energy Corp. has lost bid during the October 2019 shares auction by Chevron against Uy’s Udenna Corp. subsidiary.
“What bolsters that thesis — that it was Salim behind the senators’ conspiracy — is the fact that it was not the first time that the Indonesian’s corporate vehicle made such attempt to sabotage Uy’s acquisition of Malampaya shares,” he said.
Tiglao said the Hong Kong-based First Pacific group, 45 percent owned by Salim, is on standby to bid for the Chevron shares once Uy’s sale of the shares becomes void.
“That would mean that from being owned mainly by US and Anglo-Dutch oil multinationals, Malampaya would be owned by an Asia-wide Indonesian-controlled conglomerate,” he added.
Tiglao said the “despicable attempt” of Gatchalian, Hontiveros, and Sotto to the $560 million sales by Chevron of its 45 percent shares in the Malampaya Gasfield Project to Uy “was intended to benefit Indonesian magnate Anthoni Salim’s First Pacific conglomerate.”
Tiglao slammed the senators for preferring an Indonesian tycoon rather than a Filipino to own the country’s biggest natural gas producer Malampaya.
The DOE earlier said the inquiries in the Senate on the sale of shares of SPEX and Chevron to Uy’s subsidiaries is causing delay to the work program of the consortium. (PNA)