By Dr. Jose Antonio Socrates
Christmas Day 2007: Filipinos are greeted with front page news on disgraced congressman Jalosjos and an expose’ on twelve equally disgraceful congressmen who surreptitiously appropriated a total of P250M additional pork barrel for themselves. Christmas also revealed to Palaweños the morals and priorities of their two congressmen who in secret negotia-tions, insisted to both Chief Executives of the Province and the Country, who caved in to their demands; that they must be entitled to one third portions each of our LGUs’ share from the proceeds of the petroleum wealth of Malampaya; or else the share is not to be released. They could not be honest when their dealings were exposed but, perhaps expecting we will just acquiesce when the deed is done (sadly, those who voted for Jalosjos will vote for him again); they went ahead until E.O. 683 or the SNEO (Secretly Negotiated Executive Order) to imple-ment the IA (Interim Agreement) was signed by President GMA just before Christmas and issued by Malacañang just after. Behind our backs two-thirds of our share is now pork barrel. In the season for a true Babe in the Manger and a false St. Nicholas, we know what our legislators worship for that Baby was betrayed for Thirty Pieces of Silver (TPS) and bribing Santa Claus’ has Third Parts of Share (also TPS) each for our congressmen.

In November 28, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales submitted thru Executive Secretary Ermita a Memorandum for PGMA: COMMENTS AND RECOMMENDATION ON DOCUMENTS RELATIVE TO THE PROVISIONAL IMPLEMENTATION AGREEMENT (PIA) FOR PRIORITY DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS IN PALAWAN. One of its three attachments was the draft SNEO. On that the DOJ Secretary concludes that “this Office finds no legal infirmity in the PIA and the draft E.O.”. Fortunately there are still a lot of honest Filipinos: they disagree and for good objective reasons.

Article X (Local Government) Section 7 of the 1987 Constitution of the Republic of the Philippines states that “ Local Governments shall be entitled to an equitable share in the proceeds of the utilization and development of the national wealth within their respective areas, in the manner provided by law, including sharing the same with inhabitants by way of direct benefits.”

Book II (Local Taxation and Fiscal Matters), Title III (Shares of Local Government Units in the Proceeds of National Taxes), Chapter 2 (Share of Local Government Units in the National Wealth), Section 289 (Share in the Proceeds from the Development and Utilization of the National Wealth) of Republic Act 7160 (Local Government Code of 1991); states that “Local Government Units shall have an equitable share in the proceeds derived from the utilization and development of the national wealth within their respective areas, including sharing the same with the inhabitants by way of direct benefits.” According to Book III of the same Local Government Code, LGUs are barangays, cities, municipalities and provinces. Congressional districts are NOT LGUs.

Legislators do not have the administrative organization to execute projects so their pork barrel is spent on projects implemented by national executive agencies. We know that’s how they get kickbacks and alas we accept that as “normal”. The IA gives half of our share to us, the other half to NG (National Government). So in effect the SNEO gives back two-thirds of our half to NG. That is also against the Constitution and the LGC as both states that “including sharing the same with inhabitants by way of direct benefits”. How can passing the TPS through the Congressmen and on to the DPWH be directly benefiting? Is that illegal circuitous route necessary? Why not give the share directly to the LGU executives (who do execute projects), not indirectly through the congressional districts representatives (who have no means of executing projects themselves); as indeed mandated by both LGC and Constitution? Alas the answer is obvious to all Filipinos. And how about securityzing? What legal basis is there for congressmen to securitize LGU shares? How will they do it? Why can’t the LGUs do the securitizing? So how will the law be twisted again to enable congressmen to get cuts from securitizing TPS and who will connive with them for that?

In September 7 the League of Municipalities (LMP) Palawan Chapter passed Resolution No. 010 Series of 2007 “… REQUESTING HER EXCELLENCY PRESIDENT GMA TO DEDUCT FIRST THE EQUITABLE SHARES OF THE MUNICIPALITIES OF PALAWAN IN THE MALAMPAYA SHARE OF THE PROVINCE AMOUNTING TO FIVE MILLION PESOS EACH BEFORE THE PARTITION OF THE SHARE OF THE TWO LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS AND THE PROVINCIAL GOVERNMENT OF PALAWAN.” Obviously this was totally ignored or was held from the President, even though the mayors (governors and barangay chairpersons) are the rightful recipients of the share. They were asking only a pittance, not TPS, each. Thirty Pieces of Share each is lots of commis-sions, kickbacks, SOPs, graft, corruption and lots of public money going into a few, very few, private pockets. The immorality is mind boggling. It is also grossly insulting. We are taken to be docile dimwits who can be easily duped. Maybe our minds are now numbed hopeless. Legislators who usurp executive functions for pork are the principal perpetuators of the institutionalized corruption in our morally bankrupt kleptocracy.

The SNEO is not to be proud of. It is an outrage to be ashamed of but do those who insisted on it have any sense of shame? Anybody or group can have the SNEO put under a Temporary Restraining Order, then take it all the way to the SC (Supreme Court) — again!. And won’t the other legislators (who pledged to an oath as Trillanes did) of Senate and Congress be outraged if not envious that their two colleagues have illegally added billions to their pork barrels behind everybody’s (except for a handful of accomplices) backs? Surely the SNEO is offensive to the Department of Interior and Local Government. The Secretary of Justice is flagrantly wrong but what has the oversight reviewers of the Palace been doing? It is likely therefore that the SNEO may be subjected to legal or legislative scrutiny, even an investigation; else what hope is there for our nation?.

When that happens, it is said that it will probably be argued that the Constitution and the Local Government Code do not apply to the SNEO because Malampaya is far beyond Palawan municipal waters. That may convince fools born only yesterday or mentally retarded. Whether or not Malampaya is in municipal waters it is well inside the Treaty of Paris Line and so is in Philippine Territory (not to mention continental shelf and Exclusive Economic Zone, see overleaf * ). There our nation’s constitution and our country’s laws have sovereign jurisdiction and are enforced. The premise was right but the motive false so the logic is brazenly twisted and the conclusion obviously wrong because the truth always triumphs. We would not expect that flawed reasoning to come from the Justice Department but if it does, we as a nation of law abiding citizens is doomed. It will also only mean that the SC will junk the PDR (Petition for Declaratory Relief) of the PGP.

The IA becomes ineffective after elections 2010 or when the SC issues its ruling on the Provincial Government of Palawan’s PDR. For information where a resource is in the map, the SC would turn to the National Mapping and Resource Information Administration. NAMRIA administrator General D. Ventura declared in Congress last Nov. 20, 2007 at deliberations on HB 3216, the new Baseline Bill: “Malampaya is NOT in Palawan Municipal Waters”. He is right, that resource is far away, we missed the forest for the trees and the SC will junk the PDR. Desperate to meet the May 13, 2009 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea deadline, Congress is rushing legislation of a new baseline law. One of its provisions will be: “Sec. 5. Vested Rights: The delineation of baselines as provided in this Act shall be without prejudice to vested rights existing or being claimed by virtue of Republic Act. No. 7160 (Local Government Code) and other laws which give rise to local government allotments and shares in the income generated from natural resources within the national territory as delineated prior to this Act.” Ironically this was inserted into the bill by a Palawan Congressman. Yes, our lawmakers know the laws of our country but obeying them in the face of lots of money is another thing. Would they even betray our beloved President for TPS; because culpable violation of our Constitution and our laws are grounds for impeachment. The President is to be sacrificed, as the Babe in the Manger was, for TPS. A crime is a crime, however it is justified. The SNEO is unconstitutional and illegal no matter how atrociously it may be justified. It must not be consummated by its being carried out. The SNEO should be recalled.

It is likely therefore that the SNEO may be put on hold. Assuming that it is hanky dory; what happens to our Malampaya share (currently increasing by over one billion pesos a month) after 2010? What if the SC was enjoined to hold its negative ruling until after the IA is implemented and assuming that will, God forbid, really happen, what if the SC issues its adverse decision on the day or week or even month after IA implementation? Then there’s Camago, Galoc, Reed Bank, Marantao (a structure five times bigger Malampaya) and so on. Palawan Archipelago is now encircled entirely by Petroleum Service Contract Blocks with no gaps in between. Are we prepared to lose all those for our congressmen’s TPS?

The SNEO is about immediate gratification. It has nothing to do with the patrimony of the future generations of Palaweños. That serious and sustained efforts were made, however, to implement the IA; demonstrates that National Government is in fact very willing to give us even just part of the money we believe we should be earning from our petroleum resources. We did not have to go to court after all, all it needed was Executive Action; but our governor did and so, with us, we have become hostage to our congressmen. The ransom: TPS, a third of an enormous fortune each. So our very own congressmen are making it impossibly difficult for the givers to give our share to us honorably without duress and for us to get it as our right. Their threatening stubbornness in insisting that they are right when they are wrong, plus their rush to securitize, are suspect. Are they really for the good of the people or of their pockets? Yet we should not be and we are not, so in a hurry to get and to securitize our share and be ensnared in a trap sinisterly set up by a handful of elected officials. We have been waiting for over five years already; surely we can wait a few more months.

Let us, therefore, present our honorable way of getting that share, to Her Excellency the President of the Republic of the Philippines. That way will in fact make it a lot easier for the busy and beleaguered Chief Executive, to act in our favor; she just has not been shown the better, much better, indeed the only honorable, alternative. Let it be clear that the congressmen are to lose their TPS not because our way is right but only because their way is wrong. Neither is this an effort to stop or obstruct or delay the release of our share. This is an appeal to facilitate its release to its rightful recipients in a lawful, legal and honorable way.

Let us change our perspective. Malampaya is just one of many petroleum deposits of one vast reservoir rock formation offshore both east side and west side of our Province that, however, outcrops on land but only in Puerto Princesa, in the West Coast spectacularly in Barangays Cabayugan, Tagabinet, Buenavista and in the East Coast in Barangay San Rafael – as the St. Paul Limestone Rock Formation or SPLRF. In San Rafael its tarao towers on a mountain peak by the beachside highway in Kilometer 60-61, marked by Dakoton Bridge. The SPLRF straddles Puerto Princesa from the South China Sea to the Sulu Sea. It is ours; our petroleum bearing resource. It was in 1981, however, deliberately given a wrong name by an alien geologist who refused to be corrected even when the grossly unscientific mistake was pointed out; and that error persisted so we were misled. It is now time for us to claim in earnest, for us and for the future generations of Palaweños; that resource and the share of its abundant wealth.

In November 8, 2007 Mayor Edward Hagedorn wrote to the National Committee on Geological Sciences requesting them to rectify the error. So, before the end of January 2008 the Committee on Stratigraphic Nomenclature of the Geological Society of the Philippines (GSP) will correct in an issuance the confusing and misleading misnaming of that resource as “Nido Limestone” to what it is, the St. Paul Limestone. Mayor Edward S. Hagedorn is invited to the launching of the new edition (old was 1954) of the Philippine Stratigraphic Lexicon wherein the rectification will be put on record. Mayor Hagedorn was also invited by the National Committee on Geological Sciences to work with them on the International Year of Planet Earth (IYPE), so Mayor Hagedorn invited PGMA to issue her proclamation of 2008 as IYPE with April as annually the Month of Planet Earth; from our stage of the UNESCO World Heritage Site Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park. On that occasion, the St. Paul Limestone Rock Formation, which was declared in December 2003 a National Geological Monument, will also be declared a Geopark (National Geological Park). This is again a UNESCO activity and by UNESCO guidelines the Geopark will be the entire rock formation, on land and under the sea, both east and west side of Palawan, across boundaries and regions. That would be a fitting occasion for us to declare to the world that Puerto Princesa City is the rightful recipient for the release of Palawan’s petroleum wealth share. In November 2009 the GSP will convene an international geological conference in Puerto Princesa on “Tectonics, Stratigraphy, Petroleum and Mineral Systems of Palawan”. By then we should be very happy hosts.

Thus for claiming the St. Paul Limestone Petroleum Reservoir Rock Formation as our resource, baselines and municipal waters do not matter. The resource is definitely in an LGU and our basis is definitely valid; but we must anticipate the envious and resentful sour grapes who will question it. Whatever the flaws of that basis may be, it is infinitely better than resorting to illegalities and unlawful means to get our share. The premise that “Malampaya is not in Palawan municipal waters” is now wrong but were it still correct the honorable conclusion would be: then the share should go to all LGUs of Palawan. Still, that is what a magnanimous Highly Urbanized City will do with the share; distribute it equitably to all the other LGUs of Palawan. Actually, the SPLRF offshore hugs some municipal coasts of Palawan. Nor will we insist on our full share, we could half that too with NG in the way that the IA has tried to do. We could also spend part of our share money on projects that will also directly benefit NG such as and indeed required by the SNEO: “Establishment of facilities to enhance the security of the following within Palawan: a. the continental shelf, b. the Exclusive Economic Zone, c the ecological resources, including the Natural Gas Project”. That is a quote from the very official issuance that is trying to give us our share by a disgraceful way because allegedly the continental shelf and project it refers to are NOT within Palawan. It is a documented admission that the Saint Paul Limestone Rock Formation is, like our continental shelf, our Exclusive Economic Zone and even the Natural Gas Project, is within Palawan (see * overleaf). Nowhere does it say in the Constitution and LGC that “within” should be within “municipal waters”. Puerto Princesa is not a municipality.

Anyhow, we need not also worry about the Supreme Court. Because of the new HUC status of PPC, any SC ruling on any petition of the Provincial Government of Palawan will not apply to the City Government of Puerto Princesa. Besides, the PDR is just about Malampaya, it does not even mention the reservoir rock which contains Malampaya and all the other petroleum deposits of Palawan. We do not have to go to court to get our share, nor do we need to conspire disgracefully for it. We just need to be honest and very publicly show the Chief Executive of our Republic the honorable way. It should in fact be the only way; a triumph that we and everybody else can proudly respect.

Then we and our local executives can decide amongst ourselves what projects we should spend our rightful share on, and not be dictated upon by our representatives

in Congress. Ironically we elected them to represent us, not themselves, and to be our servants, not dictators; for have they ever consulted us about their TPS projects? No, they were even hiding from us what they were doing. Was it cowardice or did they like felons knew that what they were doing was something unlawful they had to hide?

Happy New Year

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