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Graft raps filed vs Cusi, Dennis Uy

Rhodina Villanueva - The Philippine Star
Graft raps filed vs Cusi, Dennis Uy
In a 48-page complaint for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Filipino-American businesswoman Loida Nicolas Lewis, Balgamel de Belen Domingo and Rodel Rodis alleged that Cusi and other respondents conspired to give unwarranted benefits and advantage to Uy’s Udenna Corp. and its subsidiary, UC Malampaya, in the sale of Chevron’s share and transfer of rights in the Malampaya project.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi, Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy, Chevron Philippines officials and several others have been slapped with a criminal complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman over the sale of shares in the Malampaya project, which allegedly caused “undue injury to the government.”

In a 48-page complaint for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Filipino-American businesswoman Loida Nicolas Lewis, Balgamel de Belen Domingo and Rodel Rodis alleged that Cusi and other respondents conspired to give unwarranted benefits and advantage to Uy’s Udenna Corp. and its subsidiary, UC Malampaya, in the sale of Chevron’s share and transfer of rights in the Malampaya project.

In a statement, Udenna said it has yet to receive a copy of the complaint, which it learned about only through media reports.

“At the proper time and venue, we will address all allegations raised against the company to prove that everything is done aboveboard,” it said.

“At this juncture, we maintain that the acquisition of UC Malampaya Phils. Pte. Ltd. (UCMP) of the shares of Chevron Philippines in Chevron Malampaya LLC is within the parameters of the law,” it added.

The DOE, for its part, said the filing of the complaint could be politically motivated as two of the complainants – whom it did not name – were reportedly identified with the “Oust Duterte” movement in the US.

It also called the case “speculative, without basis and malicious.”

“Coincidence or not, the timing of the filing of the case is curiously close to the onset of the political season with the recent filing of the certificates of candidacy of national and local candidates for elective office,” the DOE statement said.

Cusi is incumbent president of the ruling PDP-Laban.

“Clearly, this is harassment, but it comes with the territory, so we will just address it at the proper forum where it was filed,” Cusi said.

Also named respondents were officials of Shell Philippines Exploration (SPEX), which reportedly plans to exit the country and had negotiated a deal with Udenna early last year.

Retired Gen. Rozzano Briguez, PNOC-EC (Exploration Corp.) president and CEO, was also included in the charge sheet.

In filing the complaint on Monday, Lewis, Domingo and Rodis said they are “concerned citizens who advocate for the Filipino people’s right to energy security, which includes the Malampaya Deep Water Gas-to-Power Project, a major energy source which delivers a fifth of the country’s rapidly growing electricity needs.”

They said the government’s losses from the sale of the Chevron share to Udenna is estimated at P21 billion, based on the average 45 percent gross share of Chevron, as member of the Malampaya consortium, for the years 2018, 2019 and 2020.

The complaint said that gross monetary losses could double to P42 billion a year if combined with the SPEX deal with Udenna.

It also alleged that Cusi, who is also the ex-officio chairman of the board of PNOC-EC, “acted with gross inexcusable negligence and for personal gain” when he “facilitated the effective transfer of Chevron’s rights and obligations, as well as its 45 percent participating share, to Udenna despite knowledge that the transaction had no prior approval from the Department of Energy (DOE), and without ascertaining Udenna and UC Malampaya’s legal, technical and financial qualifications to perform Chevron Malampaya’s obligations.”

The complainants said the sale materialized despite an admission at a Senate committee hearing last July that “Udenna has no experience in the exploration, extraction and production of any oil or gas reservoir in the Philippines or outside of the Philippines, and holds no service contract in or outside of the Philippines.”

They also cited findings of the Senate energy committee that Udenna “did not shell out a single centavo” in its questionable purchase of Chevron’s Malampaya shares amounting to $565 million.

Udenna explained the transaction could not have been consummated with Chevron “without: (a) external financing amounting to $375 million from the NZB Group (New Zealand Banking Group in Australia) and the ING Bank (of Singapore); (b) its net entitlement of $157 million [in] the proceeds of Chevron’s 45 percent interest from the Malampaya Project as partial payment of the purchase price; and (c) increase of Udenna’s capital stock amounting to $33 million, which was not yet issued and subscribed.” – Danessa Rivera

ALFONSO CUSI DENNIS UY GRAFT
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