THE government has decided to suspend the plan privatization of the Malampaya gas-to-power project, the newly-appointed Energy Secretary said Monday.

Energy chief Jose Rene Almendras admitted of recommending to the state-owned Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) to first resolve the board issues hounding its subsidiary PNOC-Exploration Corp. before proceeding to with plan.

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PNOC-EC owns 10-percent stake in the Malampaya project, which powers the country's three natural gas power plants. The remaining 90 percent is being controlled by Shell Philippines Exploration B.V and Chevron Texaco.

Originally, the government wanted to sell 60-percent shareholdings in PNOC-EC. However, last year the Department of Finance said it had decided to auction off instead, the assets of PNOC-EC, particularly the Malampaya stake.

But former members of the board of PNOC-EC expressed strong objection to the plan.

Almendras said he and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima agreed that “the most important thing we want to do is to slow down".

"Let's understand what it is, what is involved. We will pursue the decision as soon as we can but without sacrificing interests,” he added.

“I'm not saying we won't sell the stake. The finance side of me says I've no problem selling it if you're going to pay me a premium over the net present value,” he explained.

Also, he said he will study pending contracts in the Department of Energy to level the playing field that is vital to “encouraging more investments in energy.”

Aside from the contracts, he said they are also studying the US$ 1.2-billion Batangas-Manila (BatMan 1) pipeline that was supposed to be undertaken by PNOC and private sector joint venture partner.

Abacus Consolidated already formed a consortium with Sultan International Holdings, based in Abu Dhabi and with Saipem ENI of Italy to design, finance, construct, operate and maintain the BatMan. (MSN/Sunnex)