Solons want closer scrutiny of Malampaya funds
MANILA, Philippines - As budget hearings continue at the House of Representatives, the minority bloc on Wednesday, August 14, called for transparency on how the government allocates proceeds from the multi-billion Malampaya deep water gas-to-power project off Palawan.
The Malampaya Fund is an off-budget item, which means it is not included in the General Appropriations Act or the annual budget passed by Congress.
Presidential Decree 910 mandates that the fund should be used to finance energy resource development and exploration programs and projects.
But records provided by the House minority bloc show that the largest amount of disbursements from the fund since 2004 — which covers both the administration of President Benigno Aquino III and former president and now Pampanga Rep Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo — went to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) at P8.03-B.
Although allocation to the National Power Corp was the second biggest disbursement, Bayan Muna Rep Neri Colmenares questioned why allocation to the Department of Science and Technology was only at P400,000.
Aside from the DPWH, the other government agencies that have received disbursements from government proceeds from the Malampaya funds include:
- National Power Corp - (P6.62-B)
- Department of National Defense/Philippine National Police (P6.26-B)
- Department of Agriculture (P5.84-B)
- Department of the Interior and Local Government (P2.33-B)
- National Electrification Administration (P1.92-B)
- National Housing Authority (P1.40-B)
- Department of National Defense/Armed Forces of the Philippines - (P1.20-B)
Colmenares said that despite the mandate provided under Presidential Decree 910, the allocation of the fund depends on the discretion of the President – much like the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel of lawmakers.
"How does the President choose which districts will benefit, how much each district will get? Colmenares said. "Our assumption is that this is presidential 'pork' and this is not a good way of spending public funds," Colmenares said.
Colmenares and the Makabayan Coalition, a group of 7 leftist lawmakers in the House, have been grilling government officials over alleged forms of "presidential pork" in the past weeks, such as the Presidential Social Fund, which is sourced from revenues of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.
Following exposes on alleged misuse of the pork barrel and the Malampaya Fund, House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora urged lawmakers to exercise their oversight functions.
"The problem with lump sum amounts is that all sorts of abuses can come in if nobody is going to exercise their oversight functions," Zamora said.
During Tuesday's budget hearing with the Department of Energy, Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said revenues generated from the Malampaya Project have reached P173-B since 2002 but only P38.8-B has so far been utilized by the Aquino and Arroyo administrations.
In February, the government received P1-B worth of royalties from the Malampaya project.
The law provides for a 60-40 revenue sharing between the national government and Palawan in Malampaya, but Palawan’s claim was disputed in court.
While the case was pending, the Arroyo administration signed an executive order that allowed the release of Palawan’s share. - Rappler.com