MANILA, Philippines — Secretary Alfonso Cusi, Udenna chief executive officer Dennis Uy, and other personalities are facing graft complaints for their role in the sale of majority shares in the Malampaya gas field, which was approved by the Department of Energy (DOE).
In the complaint filed by concerned citizens before the Office of the Ombudsman on Tuesday, it was alleged that Cusi and other employees of the Philippine National Oil Company’s Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC) and other incorporators from Udenna, Chevron, Shell Philippines Exploration BV conspired to provide Uy’s company a huge chunk of the shares under the buyout.
According to the complainants, identified as Balgamel De Belen Domingo, Rodel Rodis, and Loida Nicolas Lewis, the respondents violated not only Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, but also the provisions of P.D. No. 87 and R.A. No. 387 or the Petroleum Act of 1949.
“We are filing this Criminal Complaint […] against Sec. Cusi, Gen. Briguez, Aldevera, Cañezal, Cobol, Rabena, Tuason, Young, Tayag, Dela Cruz and Racela, who in conspiracy with Mr. Uy, Ms. Uy, Fadullon, Damuy, Braga, Abarquez, De Claro, Placino, Escalona and Kizilbash, John and Jane Does of UC Malampaya, acted with gross inexcusable negligence, thereby causing undue injury to the Government, and giving unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference to Udenna and its subsidiary, UC Malampaya,” the complainants said.
It could be remembered that in November 2019, it was announced that Uy — a Davao businessman who has close ties with President Rodrigo Duterte — bought nearly half of Malampaya under Udenna Corporation’s UC Malampaya. It was then scrutinized in the Senate just this May 2021.
UC Malampaya which Udenna wholly owns, bought the shares of Chevron Malampaya LLC which was under Chevron Philippines Ltd.
The same UC Malampaya is seen to acquire the 45 percent share of Shell Philippines Exploration BV — doubling its stake in the project to 90 percent.
Complainants said that monetary losses from the Chevron sale to Udenna is around P21 billion — based on the 45 percent share of Chevron in the years 2018, 2019, and 2020. If this is combined with the 45 percent share of Shell, it may grow to around P42 billion a year.
“They, in conspiracy with the other Respondents, allowed or facilitated the effective transfer of Chevron’s rights, obligations and its 45% participating share to Udenna and UC Malampaya, despite the knowledge that the transaction had no prior approval from the DOE, and without ascertaining Udenna and UC Malampaya’s legal, technical and financial qualifications to perform Chevron Malampaya’s obligations under the JOA and the Service Contract,” the complainants said.
“As Directors and/or Officers of their respective Corporations at all the time material and relevant to this Criminal Case, the Respondents are obliged to inform themselves of all material information reasonably available to them. Having become so informed, they must act with requisite care in the discharge of their duties,” they added.
Aside from these, the complainants also pointed out that Cusi, as ex-officio chairperson of the PNOC-EC, could have challenged UC Malampaya’s offer to Cheveron as it may be a good chance for the government to invest as they expect the return to be good.
But the complainants claimed that PNOC-EC did not exert effort to purchase the shares, which are now with UC Malampaya.
“On 19 December 2019, Sec. Cusi, who is the Ex-Officio Chairman of PNOC-EC, said that the Board of Directors of PNOC-EC has approved its exercise of its right to match the offer of UC Malampaya for Chevron’s participating share in the Malampaya Project. He also acknowledged that purchasing Chevron’s share is an ‘opportunity for [PNOC-EC] to invest, because [we see] that the return will be good’,” they said.
“However, despite knowledge of its right to match UC Malampaya’s offer and the anticipated good returns of the investment in Chevron’s share, PNOC-EC failed to exert any effort to purchase Chevron’s participating shares,” they added.
Last September 24, PNOC said that it is still studying whether it is prudent to even attempt to purchase Shell’s Malampaya shares in the natural gas field.
INQUIRER.net has sought the side of Secretary Cusi over the issue, but he has not yet responded as of posting time.
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