MANILA, Philippines—Sen. Ralph Recto on Thursday asked the administration why at least P130 billion of the Malampaya Fund had remained unspent, if it was true, as Budget Secretary Florencio Abad claimed, that the money was intact.
At the same time, Recto stood pat on the findings of his own study that showed P130 billion in cash from the Malampaya Fund, which are royalties paid out of a natural gas project off Palawan, “are gone.”
“There is no cash,” he said, belying the claim of National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon on Wednesday that the Malampaya Fund was intact.
“Their statement is misleading that [the] funds are intact, when I know the cash is used to support the GAA [General Appropriations Act or the national budget],” Recto said in a text message.
“If there is P137 billion available, why are we not spending it? Don’t we have a mechanism like the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), etc.?” Recto said.
With the fund growing and its disposition still governed by a 40-year-old Marcos presidential decree that sets it aside for energy resource projects and for whatever purposes are directed by the President, Recto said there was need for a new law to govern how it is spent.
“What we need to do is write a new law. The fund is P137 billion and growing,” he said.
“We have seen how Malampaya [funds] may be used. It’s time to amend the 40-year-old presidential decree to clarify its purpose and authority,” Recto added.
Last week, the Department of Justice filed a plunder complaint against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and three of her Cabinet officials, alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, and other alleged conspirators in the alleged misuse of P900 million from the Malampaya Fund in 2009.
Recto last Monday asked the Department of Budget and Management to explain where P130 billion in royalties from the Malampaya natural gas project was spent.
“If you ask the DBM about the P130 billion that we have collected in cash, it’s gone,” Recto told reporters after a budget hearing on Monday.
Abad responded that all appropriations from the Malampaya Fund and the balances were all accounted for by the national treasurer.
“There is no P130 billion missing. I am sure of that,” Abad said.
However, Recto citing a letter written to him by Abad on July 5, 2011, when the senator sought an explanation on how the Malampaya funds were being used, quoted Abad as saying: “No cash sitting in bank. And will have to borrow when they spend for projects under Malampaya.”—Norman Bordadora