Petronas and Sarawak at loggerheads over control of petroleum rights
PETALING JAYA: In a move seen as a challenge to Sarawak’s claim over petroleum ownership, Petroliam Nasional Bhd (Petronas) has gone to court to declare that, under the Petroleum Development Act 1974 (PDA), it is the exclusive owner of oil and gas resources in Malaysia.
The national oil corporation on Monday announced that it had filed an application before the Federal Court seeking for a declaration on the PDA being the law applicable for the petroleum industry in the country.
Meanwhile, in a related development, the Sarawak state Government said it will defend its rights in court. (see story in Page 2)
The application by Petronas stated that the national oil company was the exclusive owner of the petroleum resources as well as the regulator for the upstream industry throughout Malaysia, including in Sarawak.
“Petronas believes that the determination by the Federal Court would help provide clarity on its rights and position under the PDA,” the group said in a statement.
“Petronas remains committed to support Sarawak’s aspiration to participate in the oil and gas (O&G) industry in the state, for as long as it is within the framework of the PDA,” it added.
The move by Petronas came just a month before the Sarawak government is expected to assume full regulatory authority over the upstream and downstream operations and activities of the O&G industry in the state by July this year.
Sarawak established its own O&G company, Petroleum Sarawak Bhd (Petros), last year. At the launch of the company in March this year, Sarawak Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg said Petros would spearhead the state’s participation in the strategic O&G industry to boost state development, adding that Petros would be granted the rights to mine O&G in the state.
Abang Johari recently also said all companies or persons involved in the O&G industry must henceforth have the necessary licences, leases and approvals required either under the Sarawak Oil Mining Ordinance 1958 or Sarawak Gas Distribution Ordinance 2016.
Sarawak, as well as Sabah, had long been seeking for their O&G royalties be increased to 20%.
Both states currently receive royalties of around 5% from Petronas for O&G revenues.
However, Abang Johari recently lamented that the state government’s request to Petronas for an increase in oil royalty to 20% had proved to be difficult to secure.
“That is why the state government started petroleum company Petros to develop our oil resources using our own means,” Abang Johari said.
“By having our own petroleum company, we will chart our own development agenda,” he added.
Prior to winning the 14th general election last month, Pakatan Harapan had pledged to give O&G-producing states a “reasonable sum” for royalties if it took over the federal government. Under this election manifesto, O&G royalties to Sabah and Sarawak would be raised to 20%.
Meanwhile, in September last year, Petronas president and group chief executive officer Tan Sri Wan Zulkiflee Wan Ariffin said while he welcomed any involvement by state government entities in the O&G business, all activities must comply with the PDA.
“We have a strong relationship with the Sarawak government, as such, we welcome its participation in the O&G industry. But we also have regulations in place, of which under the PDA, Petronas is the custodian and manager of the O&G resources in Malaysia,” he said.
Wan Zulkiflee noted that the partnership with Petros could be similar to other Petronas partnerships, either as service providers or as a partner under the production sharing contract.
When asked about the potential partnership between Petronas and Petros, Wan Zulkiflee said: “Discussions are ongoing with the Sarawak government.”