Press Release
May 12, 2008


Senator Mar Roxas called on the government, through the PNOC, to make public its deliberations on the exercise of its right to first refusal in the sale of Saudi Aramco's stake in Petron Corp. to Ashmore Ltd., a London-based investment company that has no stake in the country's energy needs.

Roxas, Chairman of the Committee on Senate Trade and Commerce, also said the PNOC's belated deliberations on the exercise of this option betrays lack of transparency and short-sightedness on the part of government.

"The government knew that this sale was forthcoming yet there was no clear design on how to seize this as an opportunity to advance the national interest particularly at this time of sky-high oil prices," the senator said.

"It will be unfortunate if our first refusal option will just be waived by default. It would be a missed opportunity to get a new strategic partner in Petron," he stressed.

"The PNOC Board only met today, the deadline of the exercise of its right of first refusal. Whatever their decision was, they should explain this to the public in clear terms vis-a-vis our national interest," he said.

Roxas stressed that the sale of the 40% stake of Saudi Aramco in Petron "is not just a simple commercial transaction," as it involves the public interest at a time when the price of crude oil is going off the roof.

"This pertains to a strategically crucial product, oil, and to a company that owns 40% market share in the domestic trade of oil products. The government has yet to explain what it plans to do with its first refusal option," he stressed.

"They may have very good reasons not to exercise this option, but to date we don't know what these are. And if these 'good reasons' don't exist, we ought to instead exercise this right so we can place this key asset in friendly hands," he said.

Roxas, Liberal Party President, is advocating that the government exercise this right on the Petron shares and sell it to another 'strategic investor.' The Philippine government, through PNOC, in 1994 sold the 40% share in Petron to Saudi Aramco, considered a strategic partner, in the first place.

He noted that the government will not have to put money out in exercising this right of first refusal, as this could be assigned to another interested party.

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