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Aquino eyes use of Malampaya Fund

President Benigno S. Aquino III. EDWIN BACASMAS/INQUIRER

MANILA, Philippines—President Aquino is considering tapping the government’s share in the Malampaya Fund as a possible subsidy for consumers to help “cushion the impact” of the increase in power rates.

Aquino mentioned possible subsidies for public transport when asked about concrete steps his administration could take with the huge increase in the generation charge of Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

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Asked if the planned subsidy would also apply to electric bills, the President said it would be “hard to speculate,” noting that it would be difficult to account for the Malampaya Fund if its use would be “very diffused.”

“So [it] has to be studied exactly how it can cushion [the impact of the

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power rate increase], first if it can and how it will cushion it,” he said.

Tasked with studying the matter were Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Alfredo Caguioa and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa.

The President said he was expecting to get proposals from his Cabinet before he leaves for Tokyo to attend the Asean-Japan commemorative summit from Dec. 12 to 15.

In a landmark ruling, the Supreme Court also removed presidential discretion over the Malampaya Fund, which was supposed to be spent on energy-related projects.

The fund represents government revenue from the sale of natural gas from the Malampaya gas fields off the west coast of Palawan province.

But a provision of Presidential Decree No. 910 allowed the fund to be spent “for such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the President.”

A total of P137 billion was left of the Malampaya Fund, National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon earlier told a Senate committee.

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Under Aquino’s watch, part of the Malampaya Fund (P423 million) was spent to refurbish a warship acquired from the United States in 2011.

Apparently to justify the acquisition, the Department of Budget and Management had said the warship, later renamed BRP Gregorio del Pilar, would be used for the “protection and security” of the Malampaya gas fields.

Part of the Malampaya Fund also went to a rural electrification project (P814.4 million), a public transport assistance program (P300 million and P150 million) and fuel requirements of National Power Corp. (P2 billion).

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino III, Consumer issues, Malampaya fund, power rate increase
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