PNOC-EXPLORATION CORP. HAS again asked the national government to spare the company from its privatization efforts, stressing that its sale without a public bidding was illegal and tantamount to become a midnight deal.
Inquirer sources said that after the present board of PNOC-EC refused to approve the sale of its principal asset--the Camago Malampaya oil and gas field that it jointly owns with Shell Exploration BV and Chevron?the Department of Finance announced that the issue would instead be taken up by the firm?s new board.
The existing board refused to approve the sale of its 10-percent participating interest for P16 billion because ?no public bidding was contemplated.?
?Simply because Shell and Chevron have the right to match or the right of first refusal or because the Privatization Committee authorized the sale, this does not exempt the transaction from public bidding,? said a source, who declined to be identified.
Due to the board?s refusal to approve the sale, members of the existing board were allegedly now being removed and replaced by new ones who would be more compliant with the directive of the current administration, the sources claimed.
Sources added that the current board had declared that it ?will not stand in the way of such move, as we have no intention of holding on to our positions.?
?Nevertheless, lest our submission to our replacements be misconstrued as an acceptance of its legality, we affirm our stand that the PNOC-EC is effectively covered by the constitutional ban on presidential appointments effective from March 10 to the end of the incumbent board?s term of June 30,? the source had quoted other members of the board as saying.
Other officials added that the sale of the asset at this time could easily be dubbed as a midnight sale. They noted that the absence of a public bidding would fuel public suspicion regarding the motive behind the sale.
?It will certainly reduce the likelihood that this strategic energy asset will be sold at a fair price. The sale of the 10-percent share in the Camago Malampaya field, being the sale of substantially all the assets of PNOC EC, would render the company incapable of fulfilling its responsibilities under its oil service contracts and coal operating contracts in the long run and severely hamper its ability to participate in future oil exploration activities,? a source stressed.
They also said that Shell and Chevron were drilling a new well in the contract area that could well be another major discovery?a development that would benefit not only PNOC-EC but the government as well. Amy R. Remo