Best of AP — Second Winner


AP reports politician who pushed Philippines natural gas boom is behind firm that planned to profit

Philippines LNG Buildout Governor Image ID : 24173015826441 The sun sets over a liquefied natural gas power plant in Santa Clara, Batangas province, Philippines on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023. The Philippines is seeing one of the world's biggest buildouts of natural gas infrastructure. AP PHOTO / AARON FAVILA

Philippines LNG Buildout Governor

As the Philippines builds out extensive new fossil fuel infrastructure despite the findings of international climate experts that the world cannot afford more, AP climate investigative reporter Ed Davey spent months fighting for documents and digging deep into the Philippines Securities and Exchange Commission. He was able to pierce a corporate veil to show that the governor of the country’s major natural gas development zone had a personal stake in the buildout through layers of shell companies.

Davey realized that the team’s compelling all-formats story on environmental damage from new fossil fuel plants wasn’t the whole story. So, he went all in to answer why the country was choosing this path. After all, making electricity by burning so much more natural gas wasn’t just bad for the environment and climate, it was going to cost Filipinos more for electricity.

With aggressive reporting largely through documents, and building on colleagues’ prior work, Davey made requests to Philippine national agencies and extensively used public documents to gradually uncover a web of holding companies connecting the powerful governor to land sales. The details of deals were often buried deep in corporate documents, some hundreds of pages long.

 He tracked down speeches the governor and his wife made to shareholders and business audiences, expressing expectations of wealth for family-owned companies. He was able to show that one of the most influential politicians in the Philippines was behind a company that intended from the beginning to make a fortune from it.

Legal experts say it’s a major conflict of interest and the governor may have to resign. Under Philippine law, he should have divested his ownership of the companies.

Shortly after the story ran, the Manila City Post ran a headline saying “Batangas governor in hot water over stakes in energy company,” suggesting that the governor could be evicted from his office unless he could show he had no financial interest in the buildout. 

The AP’s exclusive story was widely used by other Philippine news sites and internationally. It appeared on the sites of the Washington Post, the New Dehi Times in India, MSN, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, ABC News, Houston Chronicle, the Financial Post, Yahoo, the Seattle Times, Newsday and the San Francisco Chronicle among 200 newspapers and TV station sites.

An intrepid Davey was attacked by a dog while carrying out his fieldwork, breaking his arm, but he stayed in the country for another week to continue the investigation.

For a courageous and groundbreaking investigation that held special interests to account, Davey wins this week’s Best of AP — Second Winner.

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