Malampaya gas deal too needs reviewing

GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - January 22, 2020 - 12:00am

While Malacañang is setting aright natural resources contracts of private firms, it might wish to review too the Malampaya gas extractions. That deal is in blatant violation of the Constitution, thus a worse affront on Filipinos than onerous water provisos. How it has gone on for nearly two decades is a crime mystery. Perpetrators must be exposed.

The natural gas mine began in 2001 as a joint venture of 90-percent foreigners and 10-percent Filipino. The former consisted of European Shell, 45 percent, and American Caltex, now Chevron, 45 percent. The Filipino 10 percent is the state-owned Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corp.

That wrongful ownership is often publicly reported. Yet no high official has questioned it. Impliedly, the fundamental law, the people’s sovereign will, can be trifled with. Damn nationhood, government, the Armed Forces, and other constitutional concepts and precepts – so each man to himself.

Exploration, development, and use of natural resources shall be under full State control and supervision, the Constitution states in Article XII, National Economy and Patrimony, Section 2. The State may directly undertake such activities, or enter into co-production, joint venture, or production-sharing agreements with Filipino citizens, or corporations or associations at least 60-percent Filipino owned. That is because “all lands of the public domain, waters, minerals, coal, petroleum, and other mineral oils, all forces of potential energy, fisheries, forests or timber, wildlife, flora and fauna, and other natural resources are owned by the State.”

Recent news on the BIR tax case against Shell have it that the Philippine government is guaranteed 60 percent of Malampaya profits. The issue in that suit is the government’s profit share, not what it owns. Still, the 60-percent share supposedly substitutes for the 60-percent Filipino ownership. Legal hocus-pocus.

Ownership means control, and control in a corporation is by the Board of Directors. PNOC’s 10-percent ownership does not entitle it to even one seat if the Directors are only seven or less. PNOC can only start to be represented if there are 11 or more Directors, and even then it will have only one seat against the foreigners’ ten.

Purportedly the foreigners had to lay down 500 kilometers of pipes in very deep waters to bring the gas to Batangas. Still, can the 60-percent Filipino ownership requirement be waived in difficult situations? Perhaps the inverse can be justified if the joint venture was owned 60 percent by Filipinos, and the foreigners guaranteed 90 percent of the profit.

Chevron’s sale last Nov. of its 45-percent stake to Dennis Uy’s Udenna Corp. does not correct the anomaly. While that now makes Filipinos Udenna and PNOC 55-percent owners, they are still five percent short of the constitutional mandate.

Various laws on foreign investments, mining, and dummying preceded the 1987 Constitution in stating the 60-percent Filipino ownership rule. That’s because the rule was part as well of the 1935 and 1973 Constitutions. Generations of Filipinos have long preferred it.

Prostitution of that rule in 1947 sparked the communist rebellion. Then being rebuilt, war-ravaged Philippines was in dire need of funds. America, which in 1945 had bombed Manila and other cities for Liberation, promised war reparations in exchange for Parity Rights. American citizens and corporations were to enjoy for 25 years equal rights with Filipinos to explore and exploit natural resources. Former anti-Japanese Hukbalahap guerrilla commander Luis Taruc and seven communists and socialists had won seats in Congress. Parity Rights was anathema to nation building in which they were eager to participate. President Manuel Roxas had them expelled from Congress in order to secure the votes to muddy the Constitution. Taruc returned to the hills, and his forces grew in Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, and the Visayas. The rebellion has yet to be resolved 73 years hence.

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How many millions of pesos will it cost to transport, secure, billet, feed, and convene the House of Reps and support staff today in Batangas? All to show that “congressmen are one with the people” in their misery from Taal Volcano’s eruption. Instead of politicking, they would do better to conserve meager state funds for more calamities this year. Also, to show genuine concern by pulling out their pork-fattened wallets and donating to the stricken Batangas folk.

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“The day the music died ... his songs live on in our hearts.” That online post encapsulated the grief of countless fans at the passing of Manila Sound pioneer and Hotdog Band founder Dennis Garcia. At 69 Dennis succumbed to lingering illness Saturday night, and will be laid to rest today after final rites at Heritage Memorial Park, Taguig.

Bass guitarist Dennis composed such hits as “Bongga Ka Day”, “Miss Universe ng Buhay Ko”, “Beh Buti Nga!”, “Annie Batungbakal”, “Pers Lab”, “Bitin Sa Yo”, “O Lumapit Ka”, “Langit Na Naman”, “Dying to Tell You”, and “Manila”. Starting in the ‘70s his music was the life of parties, bars, and radio. Other bands and soloists owe their platinums to his prolific songwriting. Younger brother and Hotdog lead vocalist Rene Garcia had gone ahead in 2018. Between retro concerts in the past decade Dennis devoted time to his other love, painting, and held three exhibits. Possessors of his music albums and artwork doubtless will go on listening, gazing, and reminiscing how he deeply influenced their loves and lives. As one of his hit titles goes, “Ikaw Pa Rin”, Dennis.

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

Gotcha archives: www.philstar.com/columns/134276/gotcha

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