Resolve Malampaya case, SC asked

MANILA, Philippines - Four petitioners have urged the Supreme Court to rule on the long-standing Malampaya fund case.

Since 2001, the Malampaya natural gas project has been operating off the shores of Palawan, providing revenues that have been fought over by the local government of Palawan and the national government.

In February this year, Shell Philippines Exploration BV, which operates the gas-to-gas power project, turned over US$1 billion in royalties to the Philippine government.

The law provides a 60-40 revenue sharing between the national government and Palawan in Malampaya, but Palawan’s claim was disputed in court.

While the case was pending and in an attempt to appease Palawan, the Arroyo administration signed an executive order that allowed the release of Palawan’s share. Based on Executive Order 386 (EO 386) issued by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Palawan had a stake in 2008 worth approximately P2.6 billion in the Malampaya gas project.

Arroyo was able to do this because of a decree of Ferdinand Marcos that gives the president a free hand in allocating the Fund.

Petitioners led by Puerto Princesa Bishop Pedro Dulay Arigo questioned EO 386 before the Supreme Court. The other petitioners were Dr. Jose Antonio N. Socrates, former Interior and Local Government Secretary Cesar Sarino, and UP Prof Harry Roque.

But the Court has not moved beyond holding the first set of oral arguments on the case in 2009.

In a new petition, the 4 asked the High Court to decide on who gets revenues from the natural gas project, and to abolish EO 386 to reduce the possibility of misappropriations of the Malampaya fund.

The petition comes in the wake of report that based on a Commission on Audit report, Arroyo approved the release of P23 billion as part of calamity funds from 2006-2010. A total of P900 million of the Malampaya funds also reportedly went into non-government organizations set up by Janet Lim-Napoles, who is alleged to be the brains behind a pork barrel syndicate.

The petitioners noted that denying "that Palawan possesses a Continental Shelf and that the Camago-Malampaya fields are a natural prolongation of Palawan’s landmass is to bargain away the Filipino people’s rightful claim to the rich marine resources in the region."

Such a bargaining away of the Philippine claim to resources would, according to the petition, violate Article XII, section 2 of the 1987 Constitution, which states, "The State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens." - Rappler.com