Solon seeks Congress’ oversight to prevent Malampaya fund misuse

By Filane Mikee Cervantes

November 3, 2017, 3:23 pm

MANILA -- A progressive lawmaker on Friday stressed the need for congressional oversight on the Malampaya fund after the state audit revealed the alleged “questionable” release of nearly PHP38.8 billion in Malampaya natural gas funds from 2004 to 2012.

In a statement, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said that it is "imperative now for Congress to exercise a stringent oversight power" on the Malampaya proceeds as former Department of Budget and Management (DBM) officials face investigation over funds misuse.

In an 80-page Sectoral Performance Audit report released on October 30, the Commission on Audit (COA) disclosed that the DBM’s release of Malampaya funds did not comply with existing laws, rules and regulations.

"This type of misuse is one of the reasons why we filed House Bill 3877 to amend PD (Presidential Decree) 910, Creating an Energy Development Board, and Mandating the Transfer of the Malampaya Funds to the General Fund, so as we can truly see how the fund is being used and appreciate its true value in our national development," Zarate said.

"It can be remembered that last August the DBM and the Bureau of Treasury were pointing to each other where the PHP21 billion of the fund went during a House hearing on HB 3877," he added.

Citing data released by the Bureau of Treasury, Zarate said that since January 2004 to February 2013, the past two administrations used the Malampaya funds to finance priority development projects all over the country as well as other projects identified by the executive.

Zarate further noted that the period that the most number of disbursements occurred during October to December 2009 or just a few months before the presidential elections in May 2010.

"During this time, PHP2.27 billion was allotted for structures nationwide while flood control projects and road repairs in NCR (National Capital Region) was allotted PHP500 million. Also around PHP15 million- PHP50 million were given to different regions all over the country,” he said.

As for the Aquino administration, Zarate revealed the Malampaya fund was used for buying junk boats and their docking expenses for PHP3.6 billion while using PHP1.1 billion only for sitio electrification and PHP1.2 billion for fuel requirement and genset rentals.

"There is no rational use of the funds. Obviously, the past administrations used the Malampaya funds like a secret campaign kitty and a reserve pork barrel. It is but right that all those involved should be investigated and charged,” he said.

He also urged the House leadership to fast-track HB 3877 to prevent the anomalous Malampaya fund use.

Under the law, the Malampaya fund, representing the government's 60-percent share in royalties from the Malampaya natural gas facility, should be allotted only for the government's oil and energy programs. (PNA)