Sep 24, 2020

Palawan to appeal SC ruling on Malampaya

Atty. Harry Roque (extreme left) sits with Governor Jose Alvarez and Kilusan Love Malampaya founder Cesar Ventura (extreme right) on January 24, 2019, for an interview with a Konektodo program female host regarding current issues in Palawan. It is believed that this was also the same day Roque discussed the SC ruling and the filing of new appeals with Gov. Alvarez and Ventura. (Photo courtesy of Eunice Cledera)

The decades-long fight for Palawan’s share in the offshore Malampaya natural gas project is not yet over despite the recent unanimous ruling of the Supreme Court (SC) to deny the province its 40 percent entitlement from gross government revenues.

Atty. Harry Roque, who once represented the petitioners of the case in the highest court, said Thursday this is because the Kilusan Love Malampaya (KLM) and the provincial government will file separate appeals in 15 days.

“Since we are not a federal state yet, the 40 percent entitlement of Palawan, which was because of an act of Congress [stands.] It has to be implemented and respected by our Court. We will file a motion for reconsideration (MR),” Roque said in a text message to Palawan News.

He said the decision to file the motions for reconsideration was discussed among him, Cesar Ventura of KLM, and Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez also Thursday.

The KLM’s appeal will be different from the province’s but both will have the same content which is for the SC to reconsider Palawan’s right to the 40 percent share.

“We will give an update as soon as possible, but for now, we will file an MR. Hindi pa tapos ang laban. Hindi pa ‘yan nagtatapos d’yan (The fight is not yet over. It does not end there),” he said.

Meanwhile, acting provincial information officer Caesar Sammy A. Magbanua said the provincial government’s legal team will review the SC decision before moving to file the appeal.

“Of course, malungkot ang probinsya with regards to the decision of the court. Pag-aaralan pa ng legal team kung ano ang magiging hakbang (Of course, the province is sad with regards to the decision of the court. The legal team will still study what moves it will take),” Magbanua said.

The SC en banc voted 12-0 in favor of the national government.

The decision was penned by now-retired associate justice Noel Tijam, with concurrences from Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin and associate justices Antonio Carpio, Diosdado Peralta, Mariano del Castillo, Estela Perlas Bernabe, Marbic Leonen, Benjamin Caguioa, Andres Reyes Jr, Alexander Gesmundo, Jose Reyes Jr, and Ramon Paul Hernando.

Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza did not take part in the voting, while Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang was on leave.

The Malampaya gas project is being operated by the Malampaya Joint Venture Partners composed of Shell Philippines Exploration BV, Chevron Malampaya LLC, and Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC) since 2001.

Since 2006, the Palawan provincial government has been trying to claim its 40 percent share from the Malampaya gas based on Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991.

Local government code of 1991 Section 290 stated that “Local government units shall, in addition to the internal revenue allotment, have a share of forty percent (40%) of the gross collection derived by the national government from the preceding fiscal year from mining taxes, royalties, forestry and fishery charges, and such other taxes, fees, or charges, including related surcharges, interests, or fines, and from its share in any co-production, joint venture or production sharing agreement in the utilization and development of the national wealth within their territorial jurisdiction.”

It is also supported by the Philippine 1987 Constitution Section 7 which stated “Local governments shall be entitled to an equitable share in the proceeds of the utilization and development of the national wealth within their respective areas, in the manner provided by law, including sharing the same with the inhabitants by way of direct benefits.”

During the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the national government claimed that the gas field where the share will be derived is outside Palawan’s jurisdiction, hence, it is not entitled to any proceeds.

The 94-page decision of the SC signed on December 4, 2018, was only released on Wednesday.

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