Where’s P77-B Malampaya fund, Recto wants to know
Where’s the money?
Sen. Ralph Recto on Monday said the government should first account for the P77.2-billion Malampaya gas project fund, which has reportedly lain “idle” for many years, before it includes it in the 2012 national budget.
Recto, chair of the Senate ways and means committee, demanded that the Department of Energy (DOE) disclose to the Senate “where the account is and which bank is playing baby-sitter” to the fund.
Since it had been “comingled” with regular state funds, the Department of Finance, Bureau of Treasury, Department of Budget and Management, and the DOE should “make an accurate identification” of the fund, he said.
“We want (the government) to say where the money is,” he said.
The Commission on Audit (COA) had proposed that Congress appropriate some P77.187 billion—the money the government has earned from the Malampaya gas project—to pay off public debt and augment the depleting funds of the national government.
The COA had discovered that the DOE’s special account for Malampaya had a balance of P77.187 billion as of December 2010, an amount that has reportedly lain idle for eight years.
On the other hand, the DOE said it had spent P19.4 billion on projects unrelated to energy development, including the rehabilitation of agricultural industries, and agrarian reform communities hit by storms “Ondoy” and “Pepeng,” the relocation of typhoon victims, reconstruction of roads and bridges, and the modernization program of the military.
Recto said the Malampaya funds were treated as an “off-budget item” that could only be disbursed at the discretion of the President.
He agreed that bringing the money into the general appropriations fund would guarantee transparency in the disbursement and utilization of the fund for priority programs and projects.
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile also welcomed the Commission on Audit’s recommendation that Congress appropriate the government’s share of the Malampaya gas project.
“I support that,” said Enrile in an interview over dzBB Sunday, a dding that he had filed a bill proposing to use the fund to reduce power rates.
The Malampaya natural gas project, begun in 2002, involves the extraction of natural gas from the waters of Palawan. The government receives net proceeds from service contractors Shell Philippines Exploration BV and Chevron Texaco which operate the project. The government has a 10-percent stake in the project through the Philippine National Oil Co.-Exploration Corp.
While power rates have climbed higher and higher, the Malampaya funds have long been floating up in the budget clouds,” said Recto. The time has come to escort it down to the fold of the GAA (General Appropriations Act) or the annual budget,” he added.
The government receives an estimated P9 billion to P11 billion annual share from the Malampaya gas project.
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