One of the few promises made by President Rodrigo Duterte when he was still a candidate for president was to recognize and give to Palawan its share from the Malampaya natural gas royalty. He made this commitment during the campaign, reiterating it in an impromptu speech the first time he set foot in the province following his landslide victory.
After the elections, what Malacañang eventually pursued as a stance however was to dribble and backpedal on the legal position previously assumed by the Arroyo administration denying Palawan its share, defaulting on the option to reverse it outright consistent with President Duterte’s promise and skirting the high tribunal’s decision, which eventually came out in its wake.
The Supreme Court, only recently, ruled in favor of the national government, It upheld the legal view that Palawan has no right to claim administrative jurisdiction over the Camago-Malampaya offshore natural reserves.
The ruling has far-reaching implications not only for Palawan but for other provinces similarly situated. Not only does it deny its share from Malampaya; it also precludes the provincial administration from asserting rights over energy resources in the other service contracts over the waters around it including the Reed Bank which has been surveyed as having reserves larger than Malampaya.
Recently, senior associate justice Antonio Carpio pointed to a controversial provision in a loan agreement entered by Malacañang for the Chico River dam project that compromises the country’s interest over offshore resources in favor of China.
What has unfolded by now was Malacañang’s total disregard of Palawan’s struggle that it has been pushing through all administrations. Not only did the president renege on his promise to deliver the Malampaya royalty — it also brushed aside Palawan as a direct stakeholder on the disposition of the resources around its territory.
The provincial government has recently appealed the SC ruling, sans media fanfare nor public pronouncements. But other than that, no provincial leader has spoken against the China loan deal and the Philippine government’s disregard of its outstanding commitment to the province.