Probe use of Malampaya funds, Aquino’s ‘biggest pork’, COA urged

A portion in Presidential Decree 910 grants the President the power to allocate the Malampaya funds to any project he wants. “This absolute discretion leads to irregularities or discriminatory allocation of funds to presidential friends and pet projects.” – Bayan Muna

By RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — A progressive lawmaker called on the Commission on Audit (COA) to investigate the use of Malampaya funds.

In a statement, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Javier Colmenares said the Malampaya funds constitute the biggest source of pork barrel of the President. It amounts to billions of dollars.

The Malampaya funds consist of royalty payments of Caltex and Shell to the Philippines for extracting natural gas in Malampaya near the province of Palawan. Colmenares said that since 2002, the government has collected a total of P173 billion ($3.91 billion) from the Malampaya consortium. According to reports, the Malampaya consortium paid $1.1 billion in royalties in February this year. In January 2012, the Malampaya consortium also paid the government $1.134 billion, according to the Department of Energy.

Colmenares, a lawyer, said that a portion in Presidential Decree 910 grants the President the power to allocate the Malampaya funds to any project he wants. “This absolute discretion leads to irregularities or discriminatory allocation of funds to presidential friends and pet projects,” he said.

Colmenares said that while the law clearly states that proceeds from the Malampaya contract should be spent on energy related projects, the funds were spent on non-energy related projects such as the P900-million ($20.37 million) scam linked to Janet Lim-Napoles. “About P38 billion ($859.94 million) have been spent and the remaining P132 billion ($2.99 billion) are still in the hands of President Aquino,” Colmenares said.

According to a Philippine Daily Inquirer report, at least P900 million ($20.37 million) of the Malampaya funds intended for agrarian reform beneficiaries went to 12 dummy non-government organizations linked to Napoles, president and CEO of JLN Corp.

The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) lamented that “Napoles and her cohorts in government targeted public funds intended for farmers and agriculture.”

“Given the magnitude of the pork barrel scam, we believe that Napoles enjoys the protection of top government officials,” Antonio Flores, KMP secretary general, said. The group called for an independent investigation. “An independent probe body should fear nothing even when evidence lead to Malacanang.”

Other items

Colmenares said that instead of spending the Malampaya for energy-related projects, Aquino used P445 million ($10.01 million) of it to buy a U.S. warship. “If the Malampaya funds were used to fund sustainable energy projects, we would not be suffering the same level of brownouts and high electricity cost that is plaguing the people now,” Colmenares said.

“This is the problem with presidential pork and that is why it should be abolished. The people and Congress have no control of the funds, giving the president the power to decide which project to undertake, which Mayor or Congressman to support, and by how much,” Colmenares said. He added that the constitutional provision that Congress has the power of the purse is now in name only since the national budget is practically controlled by the president through his billions of presidential pork.

Colmenares enumerated other items in the Malampaya funds that should be scrutinized:

* P 5.8 billion ($131.25 million) given to the Department of Agriculture as “agricultural guarantee fund” for typhoon victims;

* P7.09 billion ($178.78 million) to build roads in lucky districts favored by the President through the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH);

* P745 million ($16.86 million) given to the Department of Health (DOH);

* P1 billion ($22.63 million) given to the AFP Modernization especially since there was no record of the release of this fund;

* P2.14 billion ($48.43 million) given to the Philippine National Police supposedly for “disaster preparedness.”

Weeks before Aquino announced the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund, Bayan Muna, along with other members of the Makabayan coalition, announced they would not touch their PDAF.

Bayan Muna Rep. Colmenares has also vowed to ask Congress to investigate the disbursement of the Malampaya funds and other presidential pork barrel. ()

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