Former Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Thursday petitioned the Supreme Court to reconsider its decision denying Palawan its 40-percent share in the government earnings from the Camago-Malampaya gas project.
“Today, we filed a motion for reconsideration in the hopes that Palawan will finally get its legitimate share of the Malampaya funds,” Roque, who handled the case before joining the government, said.
Roque is the private legal counsel of Kilusang Love Malampaya (KLM), one of the petitioners in the Malampaya case. The former lawmaker said they filed a motion because they believe the SC’s decision was “a huge step backwards, not only for the people of Palawan, but for all local government units empowered under the 1987 Constitution and the Local Government Code.”
With a 12-0 vote, the SC en banc held that the provincial government of Palawan is not entitled to any portion of the royalties from the gas project that started operating in 2001.
The decision was penned by now-retired Associate Justice Noel Tijam. Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin and Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Diosdado Peralta, Mariano del Castillo, Estela Perlas Bernabe, Marvic Leonen, Benjamin Caguioa, Andres Reyes Jr, Alexander Gesmundo, Jose Reyes Jr., and Ramon Paul Hernando concurred with the decision.
Roque argued that the 1987 Constitution itself provides that the concept of territory encompasses waters, contrary to the Court’s finding that “territory” is limited to land mass. Moreover, the Constitution also considers continential shelves (or “insular shelves”) part of national territory. What is part of national territory logically also forms part of a specific local government’s territory.
Roque explained that “there can be no strict separation between resources that the national government can develop and the local government units that have control over these resources precisely because we are under a unitary system of government, and not a federal system.”
Furthermore, Roque said that the High Court’s decision “ignores the mandate of the 1987 Constitution that local government units be given a share in natural resources and wealth.” He stressed that “[t]he means by which local governments can achieve fiscal autonomy and develop are clearly stated in the Constitution and the Local Government Code: 40 percent share from the government’s utilization of their resources. Hence, there is no textual basis or just basis for any other conclusion than that Palawan deserves 40 percent of the revenues from Malampaya.”
Palawan stands to receive some P120 billion in shares from the Malampaya gas project if the Supreme Court changes its mind.