House to amend Malampaya law

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THE House of Representatives plans to amend the Malampaya law to limit the use of gas funds to energy-related and poverty alleviation projects, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. said.

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Belmonte is referring to Presidential Decree (PD) 910 which created the Energy Development Board which is tasked to ensure that the state achieves self-reliance in energy requirements via intensified and coordinated exploration, exploitation and development of indigenous energy resources in order to accelerate overall economic growth, including the Malampaya natural gas field in Palawan.

Belmonte noted that they intend to remove the provision which states that the Malampaya fund, which comes from the payments of oil companies Caltex and Shell for extracting natural gas in Malampaya oil field in Palawan province, should be used to finance energy resource development and exploitation, as well as other energy related programs and projects of the government as may be directed by the President.

“I was present in a conversation of the President with some of his Cabinet members about a month ago and at that point, there was no question on the legality of Malampaya, but only of the propriety of the addendum that the fund can be used for other projects as decided by the President. This addendum became a huge exit door for the Malampaya fund. President Aquino was already talking about coming out with an amendatory thing to remove such a wide open provision, or at least to put guidelines into it,” Belmonte told reporters.

The lion’s share of the Malampaya fund, he noted, should be spent on energy-related projects while initiatives on poverty alleviation and livelihood could also have a share of the pie.

“Considering that the addendum was without guidelines except the good intentions of the President, the Majority [bloc]can come out with an amendment which the President is in favor of. Definitely, I am in favor too. I am sure that we will have a chance to talk together within the next few days,” Belmonte said.

The Malampaya fund and the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) had been questioned before the Supreme Court.

“We have to decide on amendments because it [Malampaya fund law] allows wide open spending that could be interpreted in various ways. We have to set clearcut guidelines on its spending by the virtue of a law. It will still be the sole discretion of the President, but there will be a qualifier [on where the fund should be spent]. There will be certain limits,” Belmonte pointed out.

Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar province, an ally of the Aquino administration, earlier filed a bill that seeks to limit the use of Malampaya fund to energy-related projects.

“I want it [Malampaya fund spending] limited to energy-related projects because the problems stem from the spending for non-energy related projects as shown by the cases filed before the Office of the Ombudsman.

The provision which allows the President to spend Malampaya fund for other purposes was abused,” Evardone, vice chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, said.

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