This refers to the 24 March 2023 Manila Standard article by Mr. Ernesto M. Hilario entitled “Are we moving closer to energy security?” (https://manilastandard.net/opinion/314316361/are-we-moving-closer-to-energy-security.html). Nicely written in its optimism on DOE Sec. Lotilla’s actions and excellently misleading. The article would have benefitted from some basic research on relevant laws and historical facts.

Mr. Lotilla’s actions are in direct contradiction to the type of energy security envisioned by the late President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. as expressed in his PD 87, which still subsists, and which create the PNOC in response to the oil crisis in the 1970s. What Mr. Lotilla has done is to simply follow through the betrayal of the interests of the people started by his predecessor, Mr. Cusi. These two, who should be notoriously remembered in this nation’s history, gave away the nation’s gas assets’ ready profits of some PhP 100 million per day to Mr. Razon and Mr. Uy, respectively. These two tycoons, referred to by Mr. Hilario in his article as ‘competent private partners’ have never seen an oil drilling rig nor a drop of oil or a whiff of gas come out of the ground nor did their previous or immediate past business histories indicate any competence in the energy industry.

The mandate of DOE for the country is ensuring energy sufficiency and security. Malampaya is the biggest indigenous source of gas for the country. So how did Mr. Lotilla and Mr. Cusi manage to lose or kick out Shell and Chevron, two of the largest and most competent IOCs, and put in their stead Mr. Razon’s Prime and Mr. Uy’s Udenna? The two latter companies, again, referred to by Mr. Hilario as “competent” private partners, have no prior experience in oil and gas exploration and production. Or if the IOCs did kick themselves out of Malampaya, why not PNOC? No amount of publicity and passionate but lame justifications in the media from Mr. Lotilla could hide the fact that Malampaya is the very first foray of Mr. Razon’s Prime in the oil and gas exploration and production business whose graveyard is littered with the bones of incompetent first-timers. But in this sweetheart arrangement, Mr. Razon gets to feed on the carcass of the people getting screwed another time. What a perverse sense of energy security!

With Mr. Lotilla, and Mr. Cusi before him, disregarding the law and in effectively squeezing out legitimate and competent IOCs like Shell and Chevron, no legitimate and capacitous IOCs would now ever dare to consider investing in oil exploration and production in the the country – severely hampering our ability to finally ensure our own energy security. And it is doubtful if Mr. Lotilla, who has zero experience in the oil business, even realizes this. And we have zero confidence Mr. Lotilla can shepherd the country towards what Mr. Hilario says in his title – “moving closer to energy security”. More like farther and farther away and much more!

*** Dr. Celia Lamkin, the author, is the global chair and founder of the National Youth Movement for the West Philippine Sea (NYMWPS).