By Argyll Cyrus Geducos
President Duterte has asked Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corporation (PNOC-EC) president and CEO Pedro Aquino Jr. to resign, Malacañang confirmed.
In a statement Tuesday evening, Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Duterte also asked Aquino to step down as a member of the Board of the PNOC-EC and to submit his resignation before the Office of the President for loss of confidence.
According to Panelo, Duterte’s decision was part of his crusade against corruption in government.
“The President’s order is still in line, and pursuant to his anti-corruption campaign in the government, and underscores once again that there are no sacred cows under this Administration,” he said.
“We reiterate the directive of the President to all officials and employees of the government to undertake actions which are only pursuant to what the law provides in the performance of their official functions and desist from committing any act that are — or may appear to be — irregular, illegal or dishonest,” he added.
The Manila Bulletin earlier reported that Aquino was first meted with a 30-day suspension by the board of directors of PNOC-EC over a reported investment deal supposedly committed with Russian firm Rosneft Oil Company.
However, the Office of the President reportedly wanted a harsher penalty on such misstep of the state-run firm executive.
The said deal was reportedly related 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 Energy Secretary Al Cusi that the deal did not go through its evaluation and approval.
During his visit to Moscow, Russia early October, President Duterte invited Rosneft Oil Co. to invest in the Philippines and assured its CEO Igor Sechin that their investments will be safe in the country because corruption is not tolerated in his government.
“The President invited Rosneft, the leader in the Russian oil sector, to invest in the Philippines, particularly with regard to oil and gas development, and assured its officials that their investments are safe in the Philippines and that he would not tolerate corruption in the bureaucracy,” Panelo earlier said.
“We wish to add that the Chief Executive underscored that any agreement that will be executed or performed for such purpose shall undergo the proper domestic processes and comply with applicable laws and pertinent rules and regulations so as not to leave any room for corruption or irregularity,” he added.
Earlier, Philippine Ambassador to Russia Carlos Sorreta said that Russia was interested in exploring the West Philippine Sea for energy cooperation within Philippine laws. However, he said Russia had no intention to get meddle in the Philippines’ sea dispute with China.