Senate seeks raps vs Cusi, other DOE officials over Malampaya sale

Warren de Guzman, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 04 2022 09:23 PM | Updated as of Feb 04 2022 10:11 PM

Sherwin Gatchalian FB
Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy, transmits to the Ombudsman on Friday the Senate resolution recommending the filing of criminal and administrative charges against Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and other officials over the Malampaya deal. Handout/Sen. Win Gatchalian's Facebook

MANILA - Senators on Friday filed a resolution before the Office of the Ombudsman calling for an investigation into Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi and other energy officials over their role in the Chevron-Udenna Malampaya deal. 

Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate Commitee on Energy, transmitted the Senate resolution to the Office of Ombudsman on Friday.
He noted the resolution was signed by 18 senators, with 4 senators abstaining.

Gatchalian last Wednesday urged Cusi and other officials to resign over the controversy. 

“Ang sinumbit namin kanina ay resolution ng Senado, hindi resolution ni Senator Gatchalian o resolution ng isang senator, kundi resolution ng Senado as an institution," he said.

The re-electionist lawmaker said the Senate hearings into the $565 million deal which gave Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy 45-percent control of the largest natural gas producing asset of the Philippines were comprehensive, and the materials and documents they submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman substantial. 

He is hoping the Ombudsman will act quickly.

“Ako ay nagnanaiis na sa lalong madaling panahon, ang Malampaya tuloy tuloy ito, nagooperate, nag-poproduce ng gas. Malalagay sa alangin kung hindi maayos ang nagpapatakbo nito," he said.

Gatchalian estimated that 4 million households depend on power from natural gas-fired power plants which in turn depend on Malampaya for fuel. 

“Kaya dito sa Metro Manila, kung ang Malampaya ay titigil, anim sa sampung bahay ang mawawalan ng kuryente, at tataas pa ang presyo.”

Gatchalian believes the Senate investigation was already successful because it played a role in stopping another Udenna Corp. (UC) deal to acquire the 45-percent share in Malampaya SC38 of Shell Philippines.

"Ang magandang nangyari naman, yung panglawang 45 percent hindi natuloy. Ang PNOC [Philippine National Oil Co.] hindi na binigay ang kanyang pahintulot so hindi na matutuloy ang pangalawang transaction, dahil nga sa maraming nagalit, maraming umalma, so hindi siya natuloy," he explained.

Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC) officials revealed they had withdrawn their consent to that deal during a Senate hearing last December. 

However, at that time. PNOC-EC could not say if that effectively killed the transaction, signed in 2021, valued at $460 million. 

Gatchalian said if the Ombudsman investigation progresses quickly, they may be able to use it to invalidate the Udenna-Chevron deal which happened in 2020. 

“Yun ang pinagaaralan namin, dahil sa aking palagay, dahil ang pag apruba ng gobyerno ay defective, hindi naaayon sa batas, yung transaction hindi dapat matuloy," he said.

Gatchalian also repeated why he thought that was so. 

"Lumabas sa imbestigasyon na negative yung kanyang working capital, negative $137 million. Ang ibig sabihin nito, walang pera yung UC Malampaya na pagmamayari ng Udenna, at dahil nga walang pera ito, bakit pa inaprubahan ang transaction na ito?" he said.

"Malinaw sa batas ang dapat inaaprubahan lang ang mga kumpanya na may kakayahan, may pera, may technical expertise, at may karanasan sa ganitong negosyo. Dahil tandaan natin, ang Malampaya, tayo ang may ari, taong bayan ang may ari. Gobyerno lang ang nagaalaga nito," he added. 

DUTERTE BACKS CUSI

President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, criticized the Senate for passing the resolution, and expressed his full support to Cusi. 

In a statement, Duterte said the Malampaya deal was a "private transaction," and that "the national interest has been protected and the rights of the government remain intact." 

"This casts undue, undeserved, and unwarranted aspersion on the part of some of our key government officials. This is grossly unfair to them and to the public," he said.

Cusi said he is ready to face the court and the charges recommended against him by the Senate. 

"I assure everyone that I am ready to face any and all charges brought against me in the proper forum," he added.

Cusi also reiterated that the deals were legal and aboveboard. He claimed that the committee hearing against him was politicized. 

"I am prepared to explain and prove that all of the actions of the Department of Energy regarding the sale and transfer of shares of Malampaya are legal, aboveboard and in accordance with the powers and mandate of the Department," he said. 

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