Tuesday, November 12

Chong questions consistency of Oil Mining (Amendment) Bill

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KOTA Sentosa (PH-DAP) assemblyman Chong Chieng Jen has questioned the consistency of the Oil Mining (Amendment) Bill, 2018, and wants the conflict of law issue be resolved.

He said by looking into the Bill, there are likely to be inconsistency in terms of regulation that will be formulated by Sarawak against the existing regulation that was regulated by Petronas pursuant to the Petroluem Development Act (PDA) 1974.

He said in light of that inconsistency to the amended Oil Mining Ordinance (OMO), the PDA would prevail over it.

“By tabling and passing the Bill today in this august House, let the people of Sarawak not be deceived that we are claiming ownership of the oil and gas resources.

“At the most, what you are going to claim is the power to regulate the industry while ownership still remains in Petronas.

“The minister can confirm that as well, you (members of the ruling coalition) are not claiming the ownership of oil and gas on our land from the federal government,” he said when debating the proposed Bill.

Chong, who is also Sarawak Pakatan Harapan (PH) chairman, said the proposed amendment, which is supposed to regulate the oil and gas industry, the exploration and mining of oil in Sarawak would run to the contrary of the word exclusive rights that appears in the PDA 1974.

He told the august House that Article 75 of the Federal Constitution, provides that ‘If any state law is inconsistent with the federal law, the federal law shall prevail and the state law shall be void’.

“Now, we have a federal law which confers Petronas the exclusive rights to manage the oil and gas and then you have the state law trying to regulate it.

“That is inconsistent unless you formulate your regulation in accordance with Petronas’.

“At the end of the day when Petronas has certain policies or regulation which is inconsistent with Sarawak or the management company that is given the authority to regulate the oil and gas industry, the federal law will prevail,” he said.

Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Awang Tengah Ali Hasan, when moving the second reading of the Bill, said the British government has safeguarded Sarawak’s rights to the oil and gas resources in the Continental Shelf by the Sarawak (Alteration of Boundaries) Order, 1954, to extend the boundaries of Sarawak to cover the seabed and subsoils in the Continental Shelf without affecting the character of the high seas above the Continental Shelf.

He said when Parliament passed the Continental Shelf Act, 1966, and the Petroleum Mining Act, 1966, to regulate mining of petroleum in the continental shelf, these Acts were not extended to Sarawak.

“These two Acts were only made applicable to Sarawak after the 1969 Proclamation of Emergency when in the exercise of emergency powers under Article 150 of the Federal Constitution; the Yang di-Pertuan Agong promulgated the Emergency (Essential Powers) Ordinance No.10, to extend the said Acts to Sarawak and Sabah.

“However, the Oil Mining Ordinance (OMO), 1958 was never repealed by the said Emergency Ordinance No.10 which ceased to have effect in 2012.”

Awang Tengah said that Article 150(7) of the Federal Constitution provides that all laws passed during the Emergency shall cease to have effect six (6) months after the Proclamation of Emergency is annulled by Parliament.

“The said Proclamation of Emergency was annulled by both houses of Parliament at the end of 2011 and therefore, as from 2012, the OMO remains the only law that regulates the exploration, prospecting and mining of petroleum on land in Sarawak, both onshore and offshore.

“I must state categorically that having regards to Section 8 of the Petroleum Development Act, 1974, Petronas is not exempted from complying with OMO or the Land Code when it (Petronas)or its contractors undertake exploration, prospecting and mining for petroleum in Sarawak.

“The Sarawak government never waived the obligations of Petronas and its contractors from complying with our State Laws when undertaking the said Upstream Activities both onshore and offshore of Sarawak,” he said.