By Jun Ledesma
There’s another variety of wrecking crew that hounds the Duterte government. They’re the more virulent variety in that they had been unleashed by interest groups or individuals who feel there are officials in the government today that cannot be persuaded to follow their biddings. I have written about these creeping threats that are out to sow discord among the President’s men. I can smell them from the distance from what comes out in the press and it is easy to spot them.
The most recent target of this sinister black propaganda are top government officials in the energy or power industry. I am referring to Energy Secretary Al Cusi, Philippine National Oil Corporation Pres. Ruben Lista and National Transmission Corporation Pres. Melvin Matibag. Why they are lumped together provides a clue as to who are behind the plot to discredit the three.
Cusi is being accused of bilking P100-billion for power plant projects which were contracted by the Ramos government way back in 1993! The libelous item was so timed when Secretary Cusi sold his passenger and cargo fleet the proceeds of which made him an instant billionaire.
Lista of PNOC was also accused of favoring Phoenix. The defamatory item which appeared in a tabloid also invites curiosity. PNOC lease contract with Petron for its bulk plant and service stations is subject for renegotiation and renewal. They want to hit Lista in the jugular and released a press release that he demanded millions in the retrofitting of PNOC building and construction of elaborate building in the PNOC property in BGC, the former Philippine Coast Guard Admiral was complained of by Ramon Ang before the Ombudsman for unexplained wealth. Lista of course is not in the league of Ang but he is not that poor as Ang pictures him.
Lista is not about to be cowed. He laughed off the allegation that he is favoring Davao-based Phoenix. In a long distance interview the PNOC president said that he has nothing to offer Phoenix for the assets are all leased to PETRON. He also said that the retrofitting contract of the PNOC building was a project of the Aquino administration and decided on by the Bids and Awards Committee whose members are still of the Aquino administration.
The issue raised against Matibag of TRANSCO is even ridiculous and phantasmagoric. I checked on the engagement of Matibag with TRANSCO and it was only last January 2017 that he was appointed to head the agency which is under the Department of Energy but where Finance Sec. Sonny Dominguez sits as Chairman. The poor guy is being accused of making billions from the Right of Way negotiations when Transco was created by virtue of EPIRA law in 2001. Matibag might still be in college when the firm started constructing and expanding those transmission lines and power pylons which need to have road right of way as these traverse private properties. There were conflicts in valuations and ownerships and a number of these had to be settled in Court. Some cases caught up with Matibag who, to rightfully asked the Land Registration Administration to intervene.
Another preposterous attempt at discrediting President Matibag was that he demanded billions of pesos from energy players in Visayas and Mindanao to have them interconnected to the grid. How nebulous can this wrecking crew get. Mindanao and many parts in Visayas are not connected to the grid as yet and I do not think that will happen soon.
Poor Matibag he is also being crucified of being hard of Telecom players when it was during his watch that finally DICT, Transco and NGCP inked a Tripartite Agreement to support telco players, particularly the lucky 3rd Telco company which has yet to be announced. TRANSCO who owns the dark fiber assets that are embedded in the grounding accessory of the power grid have become public only during the term of Melvin as President of the corporation and Finance Sec. Dominguez as its Chairman. For decades these assets and revenue potentials had been kept secret.
The travesty of this campaign to disgrace Cusi, Lista and Matibag reveals a pattern of a well-coordinated plot to remove them as they are in the way of some oligarchs’ interest. Pres. Rodrigo Duterte had been fighting these well-entrenched and highly influential characters that in the past and up to the present control business.
The Department of Energy is a prime target because it regulates power distribution, energy resources and generations and, by quirk of some interwoven development, telecommunications.
To put it rather bluntly, let’s stop this cheap black propaganda. The way to go? Petron must pay a more reasonable lease rental of the government assets by adjusting the rent to current levels. NGCP should update its payment for the revenue share of the government and somebody must answer why the fiber optic assets of the government were leased without TRANSCO knowledge.
Machiavellian tactics won’t work with Duterte government. Better do what is fair and just, pay your taxes rightly and promptly. This government needs all the money it can muster for its BUILD BUILD BUILD program. After all you are the first to benefit from it.