President ‘very strict’ about Malampaya Fund, now P130BBy Michael Lim Ubac |Philippine Daily Inquirer
The Malampaya Fund’s current balance stands at P130 billion, and President Benigno Aquino III spent only P15 billion from the fund in 2011 and 2012 “for energy-related projects including the purchase, refurbishment and transport of a US Coast Guard cutter,” Malacañang said Friday.
The Palace justified the use of Malampaya funds for the ship renamed BRP Gregorio del Pilar as it will be used to secure our energy resources in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
Unlike the Arroyo administration, Mr. Aquino’s government did not dip into the fund and spend the money for purposes other than what was provided by Presidential Decree No. 910 of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.
The Marcos-era decree provides that royalties and proceeds from the exploitation of energy resources should form part of a special fund to finance energy development projects of the government.
“The President construes that particular provision (of PD 910) very strictly,” Valte told a Palace briefing on Friday.
The Malampaya Fund comes from the proceeds of the Malampaya natural gas project off the coast of Palawan province that was started in 2001. It has turned over to the government more than $4 billion in revenues since.
But until a legal question on how the Malampaya proceeds are to be shared by the national government and the host local government is resolved, the President has full control over how the fund is spent.
Last July, a whistle-blower who was a former employee of alleged pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim-Napoles claimed in an affidavit submitted to the National Bureau of Investigation that at least P900 million from the Malampaya Fund intended for agrarian reform beneficiaries in 2009 went to ghost projects of Napoles.
According to Commission on Audit (COA) Chair Grace Pulido-Tan, many government agencies received releases from the Malampaya Fund but that no comprehensive audit has been made on how the money was spent. Tan said on Thursday the COA would release the results of a special audit of the fund next month that she promised would be “explosive.”
Malacañang released to the media a list of projects that the Aquino administration has charged against the fund, costing a total of P15.3 billion.
“There have been 10 projects funded, sourced from the Malampaya Fund since the President took over on June 30, 2010,” said Valte.
But presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda admitted in a previous interview that Mr. Aquino had tapped into the fund to pay for the P423-million refurbishment of the US Coast Guard Hamilton Class cutter that the government acquired from the United States in 2011. The vessel has now been renamed the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, one of only two warships that the country owns.
He justified the use of Malampaya money because the refurbished Gregorio del Pilar was to be used “to secure our energy resources” in the West Philippine Sea.
“So we have been very studious and judicious in the use of the Malampaya (Fund),” Lacierda said.
List of Aquino projects
According to the Department of Budget and Management, the following were the projects that the Aquino administration has charged against the Malampaya Fund:
The 2011 fuel requirements of the National Power Corp. (NPC)-Small Power Utilities, P2 billion
Public Transport Assistance Program (PTAP)–Pantawid Pasada, P300 million and P150 million
Acquisition/transfer to the country of US Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton for the “protection and security” of the Malampaya natural gas project, P423,063,900 P1.624 billion to “cover fuel requirements (P1.322 billion); Genset lease/rental (P140 million); and half of capital expenditures requirements (P162.5 million) of NPC-Small Power Utilities Group”
For 2011, support for the upgrading of capability requirements for the security and protection of the Malampaya natural gas project, 4,954,580,16
For the rural (sitio) electrification project, P814.4 million
The NPC’s short-term loan facility with the Land Bank of the Philippines (missionary electrification), P3 billion.
In 2012, the Aquino government tapped the fund for two programs: the Barangay Line Enhancement and Sitio Electri fication Projects, P1.108 billion; and for the transfer, dry-docking and periodic hull maintenance costs of one weather high-endurance cutter class vessel, P880.6 million.
Lacierda stressed that the misuse of some P900 million of the Malampaya Fund occurred in the previous Arroyo administration.
“Under this administration, we have focused and we have complied with the presidential decree (910), which says the fund can only be used for energy and energy-related matters. We have used the fund, for instance, for our sitio electrification,” he said.
He said the Aquino administration never used the funds to purchase farm inputs or agricultural kits for distribution to the farmers.
“We have not used the Malampaya Fund for anything other than energy and energy-related matters,” he stressed.
Lacierda said the President had already ordered Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to explain why certain officials who had been linked to both the Malampaya and fertilizer fund scams were still working with the department.
As to which officials would be indicted, he said Malacañang would just wait for the results of the NBI investigation.
“And remember, in the case of the Napoles (pork barrel) scam, there are incumbent officials of the executive branch, from the GOCCs (government-owned and -controlled corporations), who were also prosecuted or were charged,” said Lacierda.
Why only Arroyo?
Meanwhile, party-list House member Neri Colmenares (Bayan Muna) on Friday urged the COA not to limit its audit to the alleged irregularities in the use of the Malampaya Fund to the Arroyo administration.
“We are urging the COA to do a special and comprehensive report on the Malampaya Fund from the start to the present and not a selective one,” Colmenares said in a statement.
“The Filipino people deserve to see the whole picture,” he said, noting that a Department of Energy (DOE) document showed how the Aquino administration had used the Malampaya Fund for projects not necessarily related to energy.
Last year, P800.6 million went to the Department of National Defense, while P4.95 billion was allocated to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, based on the DOE document provided by Colmenares’ office.
“What is obvious here is that the Malampaya Fund, which is just supposedly just to be used for energy-related projects, is being used for whatever the President wishes, whether it be President Arroyo or President Aquino,” Colmenares said.
“This is the evil of presidential pork and it has to be stopped,” added Colmenares, whose group has been demanding the abolition of the entire pork barrel system.
Tan on Thursday described as “explosive” her agency’s findings on how P23.6 billion in Malampaya Fund was allegedly misused. She said the report was due to be released next month.
Based on the DOE document, the Malampaya Fund amounted to P132 billion as of June 30 this year. It was P70 billion when Mr. Aquino assumed office on June 30, 2010.
On June 27, 2011, Tan issued a memorandum on the audit of the Malampaya Fund covering fund releases from 2006 to Dec. 31, 2010.
“It has come to the attention of this commission that there were funds released by the Department of Budget and Management direct to the different national and local government agencies chargeable against the DOE-Malampaya Fund to cover the cost of additional requirements for the various programs/projects implemented by them,” Tan wrote.
Malampaya Fund releases to 12 agencies, including the province of Palawan, reached P23.6 billion during that period, according to Tan’s memorandum.
The Department of Public Works and Highways received P7.07 billion, while the Department of Agriculture got P5.8 billion. With a report from Christian V. Esguerra
Tags: Abigail Valte , Arroyo administration , Benigno Aquino III , BRP Gregorio del Pilar , Ferdinand Marcos , Grace Pulido-Tan , Malampaya fund , Marcos-era decree , President Aquino , South China sea , US Coast Guard cutter , West Philippine Sea