Malampaya: Follow the rotten smell | Inquirer Opinion
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Malampaya: Follow the rotten smell

The first order of the day is to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas. This is the first time this column gets to say it on Christmas day itself, if memory serves. But did you know that the earliest mention of Dec. 25 as Jesus’ birthday comes from a mid-fourth-century Roman almanac, where the date is marked as “natus Christus in Betleem Judae”? And nobody seems to know for sure why Dec. 25 is celebrated as Christmas. Certainly there is no mention in the Bible. And the early Christians did not celebrate his birthday.

As a matter of fact, Jan. 6 used to be the preferred date for Christmas at least in the Eastern Church, which celebrated what we know as Christmas on that day, at least up to the fourth century. But the Western Church, which never recognized that day, decided to do it on Dec. 25 (to take advantage of a heathen celebration, but that’s another story), and in time, it was accepted universally.


But there are those who say—and I call them Bible detectives—that, based on the Bible stories about shepherds tending to their flock when angels appeared, Jesus couldn’t have been born in December at all, because shepherds couldn’t have been tending their flocks outside, it was too cold. They’ve fixed the date at March 21 as the more historically accurate day. And the Magi, they add, got there late April or early May.

And to top it all, Jesus couldn’t have been born in 1 AD. Do you know why? Because Herod—remember the one who told the Magi to make sure that they tell him where they found the Child, but they went home through a different route?—yes, that Herod, who ordered the killing of children under two years of age (the Massacre of the Innocents), is recorded to have died in 4 BC. Obviously, Jesus must have been born before then. The Bible was very specific about Joseph and Mary’s flight to Egypt.


But whether on Dec. 25, or Jan. 6, or March 21, or 1 AD, or before 4 BC, our Savior was born. Joy to the world.


The clock doesn’t stop ticking, however, and this column would like to put its two cents’ worth regarding the Malampaya deal before the year ends. It is a very bad deal for the country, and there is something really rotten about the way it was done. And from where I sit, it looks like this transaction was in the works since at least 2017. Only consider:

Shell and Chevron (the government’s partners in the Malampaya project) had been requesting a 15-year extension since 2016. Background: The current Malampaya wells are depleting fast, and will have very little left after 2024. One needs three to five years to explore and develop a production well. So an extension should have been given by 2019 at the latest for this to occur. It was not given.

Naturally, Shell and Chevron have to sell. And Dennis Uy appears and buys their share in Malampaya. Uy’s company has zero experience in exploration and production (never mind its dubious financial capability), yet the government (read: Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi) did not bother to match Uy’s bid, meaning that it accepted the company’s capability. Background: Cusi sold his Starlite Ferries company, reportedly debt-ridden, to Dennis Uy for over P3 billion sometime in 2017—which, again reportedly, earned Cusi P500 million in profits. Deep background: I am told the Development Bank of the Philippines is exposed to Dennis Uy and/or his companies to the tune of over P8 billion in loans. What are they developing?

Let’s look at the timeline again, Reader. Shell and Chevron ask for an extension of their license in 2016, hoping to get it before 2019, which will allow them to explore and develop new wells for Malampaya. In 2017, Cusi and Uy enter into a contract that is very profitable for Cusi. Up to 2019, Cusi’s agency does not act on the Chevron-Shell license application. So Chevron-Shell are figuratively forced to sell their shares—to Uy. Cusi does not exercise the government’s option to match Uy’s bid.

At this point, it is clear to everyone—well, to me, at least—that Uy is going to go into business with China for the exploration and development of new wells in Malampaya, which is so close to Palawan. Definitely, China is happy and Uy is ecstatic. If I follow the rotten smell, it looks like Cusi is also happy, and so is President Duterte. Silent partners maybe? And meanwhile, Uy and Cusi are terrorizing the media so nobody wants to talk about it anymore.


Who is unhappy? Inang Bayan. And we Filipinos. We just opened another gateway to China. Pharmally doesn’t hold a candle to this one.


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