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DoE laments IBP role in Chevron sale

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PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY OF shell.com / PUBLIC interest is prioritized in review of Malampaya transactions according to the DoE.

The Department of Energy (DoE) on Monday lamented the “thoughtless involvement” of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) in the sale of the 45 percent stake of Chevron Malampaya LLC in the $4.5-billion Malampaya natural gas field to Udenna Corporation.

In a statement, the DoE reiterated that the lawyers’ organization, which is supposed to uphold and defend the law, “has fallen victim to hearsay and sheer allegations.”

“The Department of Energy and its officials have been unduly maligned. And the IBP’s “thoughtless” involvement, allowing itself to be used by unscrupulous interest groups, greatly disappoints,” the DoE said.

“All these — tending to erode public confidence in the DoE — are unbecoming of the very institution whose mission is to improve the administration of justice,” it added.

The agency also said it will respond to any allegation against it in the “proper forum and in due time.”

“And it also takes this occasion to assure the public that the Department shall continue to uphold its mandate under the law and be of service to the Filipino People,” it said.

Last week, the IBP issued a statement asking the DoE “to rescind its approval of Chevron’s transfer of its 45 percent interest in Malampaya to Udenna subsidiary, UC Malampaya and hold in abeyance its approval of SPEX’s (Shell Pilipinas Exploration B.V.) transfer of 45 percent to another Udenna subsidiary, Malampaya Energy XP.”

The group said the transaction and the ongoing divestment of SPEX’s 45 percent in favor of Malampaya Energy XP are allegedly detrimental to national security and interest.

“The IBP also calls on the DoE to thoroughly review, study, and consider the extension of SC 38 in favor of the original Malampaya consortium — SPEX, Chevron and PNOC-EC,” the IBP said.

“In this way, the original consortium will be able to conduct further exploration on SC 38 in light of the forthcoming depletion of the Malampaya natural gas field,” it added.

Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi had already said his agency has gone beyond its mandate to prioritize public interest in reviewing the Malampaya transactions.

Cusi explained that regardless of whether the company owners who bought the stake in Malampaya have money or not, the sale is deemed legal as long as the sale passed the consortium level.

“The sale is reviewed by international auditors. They cannot sell it and approve it if the buyer has no money. I already said that his transaction was reviewed by the member of the board,” he said.

“This issue is a case of damned if I do, damned if I don’t,” he added.

SPEX was the operator of the Malampaya gas project. It sold its entire 45-percent stake in the project to a unit of Uy’s Udenna Group through unit Malampaya Energy — still subject to government approval.

SPEX has a pending request with the DoE for the SC 38 contract extension.

The Malampaya consortium — which was then composed of SPEX, Chevron, and state-run Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC) — has been asking for an extension since 2012.

The request was refiled in 2017. But four years later, the DoE remains undecided.

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