By Myrna Velasco
Malacañang has formally sought the resignation of the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of state-run Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC) over a Russia oil deal that did not get prior approval from the government company’s board of directors.
According to highly placed sources, it was President Rodrigo Duterte, himself, who sought for the resignation of PNOC-EC President Pedro A. Aquino in a recent meeting in the Palace.
Aquino was first meted with a 30-day suspension by the board of directors of PNOC-EC, but the President’s office reportedly wanted a harsher penalty on such misstep of the state-run firm executive.
An energy official has confirmed that Aquino has already submitted his resignation, and it was just up to Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi to act on it, or forward his formal recommendation to the Office of the President.
When asked on this development, Cusi indicated that he will discuss the issue with the media in a “separate forum”, as he was attending the switch-on ceremony of the 500-megawatt San Buenaventura Power Co. Ltd. (SBPL) generating facility when thrown with that particular query.
The oil deal that Aquino reportedly entered into was with Russian energy firm Rosneft Oil Company relating to oil trading, as well as joint refining ventures in the downstream petroleum industry, among others.
The Russian investors had gone up to the extent of seeking a meeting with Malacañang, when it was eventually uncovered by the PNOC-EC board chaired by Cusi, that the deal did not go through its evaluation and approval.
Aquino has been a long-time serving executive of PNOC (since the Ramos administration) until he was named president of PNOC-EC under the Aquino regime then in this current leadership.
The embattled PNOC-EC president reportedly defended himself by stipulating that the deal with Rosneft would not have be perfected without eventual approval of its Board. But since the concurrence of the board was just being sought later on, his action was still considered a legal blunder. Aquino has not been responding to media queries when asked about his suspension and resignation issues.
In a separate statement, Senate Committee on Energy chairman Sherwin T. Gatchalian averred that the suspension of Aquino over the reported oil deal with Russia “highlights the need for a clear policy direction for the entire PNOC family.”
He stressed that such incident could have been prevented “if we had a more focused PNOC,” but the lawmaker said, the state-run firm had been “spreading itself too thin by doing different things when its focus should be on oil and gas exploration.”
Gatchalian further asserted “PNOC-EC is supposed to be tasked with exploration, but this recent deal shows its intent to go into petroleum trading.”
The legislative branch, he emphasized, was sorting out a remedy to the situation “by championing in this Congress a measure that will restructure PNOC by abolishing its existing subsidiaries and directing its focus away from non-exploration activities.”