President Rodrigo Duterte has asked the president of state-owned Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) – Exploration Corp. (EC) to resign for approving an agreement with a Russian company without authorization.

Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said the president had lost confidence in Pedro Aquino Jr., who was also a member of the PNOC-EC board of directors.

“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,” Panelo said in a statement on Tuesday.

“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.

Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate energy committee, earlier on Tuesday noted that Aquino was suspended “for approving a memorandum of agreement with a Russian firm for the development of a multilateral cooperation in oil products and trading, and joint participation in oil refining without the permission from the board or from Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi.”

The move, he said, highlighted the “need for a clear policy direction for the entire PNOC family.”

“We could have prevented this situation if we had a more focused PNOC. Unfortunately, the PNOC is spreading itself too thin by doing different things when its focus should be on oil and gas exploration. The PNOC-EC is supposed to be tasked with exploration, but this recent deal shows its intent to go into petroleum trading. Meanwhile, the PNOC mother company wants to go into LNG, while the PNOC Renewables Corp. (RC) is building solar rooftops,” Gatchalian said.

“We plan to remedy this situation by championing in this Congress a measure that will restructure PNOC by abolishing its existing subsidiaries and directing its focus away from non-exploration activities. The bottom line here is that we will refocus the PNOC to purely upstream oil and gas so that it will contribute in securing the country’s energy needs,” he added. (