Mad scramble amongst oligarchs for influence over the Philippine Opposition is all about natural gas

A political realignment in the offing as the offshoot of the South China Sea dispute? Iris Gonzales in a PhilSTAR report notes, “Market players are now looking more closely at listed oil and gas companies that could possibly benefit from the entry of Davao’s Dennis ‘DAU’ Uy in Malampaya, the crown jewel in the energy sector.” Opposition wags had a field day the other day when it was announced that Udenna, Uy’s holding company, bought out Shell’s Malampaya stake. The natural gas reserve from Malampaya is about to run out so what was the logic behind the purchase? Recto Bank is just off Malampaya and the asset is not only the production platform but the pipeline to Batangas.

The Recto Bank or service contract 72 is just southwest of the Malampaya gas field. A total of three wells have been drilled, two of which have yielded gas. Exploration, which was put on hold since 2014 due to the maritime dispute, had been allowed to resume.

Uy is in bed with Bobby Ongpin in Atok-Big Wedge (ABW), which used to be a mining company now turned to be a holding firm. It’s still publicly-listed though thinly-traded. As it turns out, ABW has a 20% stake in Forum Energy which holds the service contract for the Recto Bank prospect from the Department of Energy (DOE). Gonzales, writes…

The connection is clear and the timing is impeccable. This means SC 72 could benefit from Malampaya’s subsea gas pipeline to Luzon.

That’s a 504-kilometer gas superhighway from the West Philippine Sea to Batangas, equivalent to the driving distance between Manila and Tuguegarao.

“That’s like the NLEX from the West Philippine Sea,” said Kevin Khoe of Traders Apprentice Pilipinas.

Note that this was also one of the reasons why MVP wanted to acquire Malampaya. MVP said before that if SC 72 is finally up and running, they could pipe the gas from the Malampaya facility.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a partnership between the group of Pangilinan’s PXP Energy and DAU happens if it means a rosy future for Forum Energy.

So now you have a collection of business partners with disparate political loyalties. Manny Pangilinan (MVP) is not for President Rodrigo Duterte. ICTSI chair Enrique Razon is with the camp of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (GMA). Bobby Ongpin was for former Vice President Jejomar Binay but sought the protective mantle of Greggy Araneta when the President tagged him as an oligarch early in his term. The question is now who will Uy-Ongpin partner with for the exploration? More than likely Panglinan will have to cash in if Razon moves over to the Uy-Ongpin combine and they go with a Chinese oil company with the expertise and the equipment.

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In business, continuity is essential. Pangilinan has been identified as the financial backer of the 1Sambayan Opposition coalition and is known to be pushing for the candidacy of Manila Mayor Isko Moreno for President. Albay Congressman Joey Salceda has announced that Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte has crossed her Rubicon and is running for president. The President has left it to God if he will run as Vice-President according to Sartorial Sal. God must be grinning at his perch with his name being invoked yet again in politics.

Coupled with 1Sambayan’s announcement that they will make their roster of candidates public on June 12, the political teleserye is highly-charged as the public awaits with bated breath the next episodes in what is the most entertaining drama in Philippine society. A Duterte-Duterte tandem would make the May 2022 election moot. The applicable axiom is why fix it if it ain’t broke?

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