Congress must have ‘stringent oversight’ over Malampaya funds – lawmaker

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Phil.Star file photo of the Malampaya gas field offshore facility.

MANILA, Philippines — Congress should exercise “stringent oversight power” over the revenues from the Malampaya natural gas project in the wake of a Commission on Audit report on the allegedly illegal release of P38.8 billion from the fund, a party-list lawmaker said.

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Zarate pushed for the passage of House Bill No. 3877, which he authored.

The measure seeks to amend Presidential Decree 910 (creating the Energy Development Board) and mandate the transfer of the Malampaya funds to the general fund “so we can truly see how the fund is being used and appreciate its true value in our national development.”

In an 80-page Sectoral Performance Audit report released on October 30, the COA found that, as of June 30, 2013, a total of P173.28 billion was received by the government as its share from the net proceeds of the operations of the Camago-Malampaya gas plant in Palawan.

Of this amount, P38.8 billion or 22.41 percent, was released by the Department of Budget and Management to various national government agencies, government-owned and -controlled corporations, and the provincial government of Palawan from January 20, 2004 to May 21, 2012.

The audit body said the fund releases “were not intended for energy resource development and exploitation programs and projects of the government,” thus “the very purpose for which Malampaya Fund was established is therefore yet to be served.”

Zarate recalled that in the August 2017 hearing on his bill, the DBM and the Bureau of Treasury were pointing to each other on the question of where the P21 billion from the fund went.

He said the Bureau of Treasury afterwards released a list showing that since January 2004 to February 2013, the two prevkious administrations used the Malampaya funds to finance priority development projects all over the country, as well as other projects identified by the executive.

“It must also be noted that the period that the most number of disbursements occurred (was) during October-December 2009 or just a few months before the presidential elections in May 2010,” Zarate said.

Quoting government records, he said that during this time P2.27 billion was allotted for structures nationwide while flood control projects and road repairs in the National Capital Region were allotted P500 million. Around P15 million to P50 million were given to different regions all over the country.

“As for the Aquino administration, they used the Malampaya fund for buying junk boats and their docking expenses for P3.6 billion while using P1.1 billion only for sitio electrification and P1.2 billion for fuel requirement and genset (generator set) rentals,” he said.

“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,” Zarate added.