DoE forms panel to review sale of Malampaya stake

THE Department of Energy (DoE) has formed special technical and financial review committees and tapped consultants to review the proposed sale of the interest of Shell Philippines Exploration B.V. (SPEx) in the deepwater Malampaya project.

“We want to assure the public that the DoE will exercise the utmost care and diligence in carrying out its mandate involving the country’s upstream oil and gas sector in general, including the country’s biggest gas-to-power initiative to date,” DoE Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla said in a virtual press briefing on Wednesday.

Mr. Lotilla said the special technical and financial review committee will be chaired by Rufino B. Bomasang, with Francisco G. Delfin, Jr., and Froilan A. Tampinco as members, while Edgar Benedict C. Cutiongco will serve as a consultant.

Mr. Bomasang previously served as president of PNOC Exploration Corp. (PNOC EC), while Mr. Delfin was a DoE undersecretary and the current vice-president of PetroEnergy Resources Corp. Mr. Tampinco was president of the National Power Corp., while Mr. Cutiongco had a stint at PNOC EC.

The financial review committee will be chaired by Roberto G. Manabat, while J. Carlitos G. Cruz and Gabriel R. Singson, Jr. will serve as its members and Ephyro Luis B. Amatong as a consultant. Luis Ma. G. Uranza will act as a consultant for the legal aspect of the sale.

Service Contract 38, which covers the Malampaya project located northwest of Palawan island, West Philippine Sea, is operated by SPEx, which also holds a 45% interest in it. State-led PNOC EC has a 10% stake.

A unit of Udenna Corp., chaired by Dennis A. Uy, previously acquired the 45% stake in the deep-water project held by Chevron Malampaya LLC. The deal, forged in October 2019, was approved by the DoE in March 2021.

Another Udenna unit has a pending deal to acquire the 45% stake of SPEx in an agreement forged in May 2021. The acquisition awaits the approval of the DoE, which in turn is waiting for the consent of PNOC EC.

In June, businessman Enrique K. Razon, Jr. said that his group was poised to take a controlling stake in the project.

In July, Mr. Razon’s Prime Exploration Pte. Ltd., a subsidiary of Prime Infrastructure Capital, Inc. (Prime Infra), announced that it had signed a share purchase agreement acquiring MEXP Holding Pte. Ltd. from a subsidiary of Udenna.

MEXP previously signed an agreement with Shell Petroleum N. V. to acquire SPEx.

Meanwhile, Mr. Lotilla reiterated that the review of Prime Infra’s acquisition is on track. He said on Aug. 25 that the decision on the Malampaya stake sale will be made before the year ends.

Last week, the DoE established a legal advisory panel to guide the department on legal issues, including the Malampaya deal, as well as accelerating and expanding the development of indigenous energy resources in the country.

The legal advisory panel includes retired chief justices Renato S. Puno, and Artemio V. Panganiban. — Ashley Erika O. Jose