An ally of President Benigno Aquino 3rd has pushed for limiting the proceeds of the Malampaya fund to energy-related projects.
Rep. Ben Evardone of Eastern Samar province, a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), made the proposal under his House Bill 2960 which amends Presidential Decree (PD) 910, a legislation passed during Martial law that created the Energy Development Board and tasked it to ensure that the state achieves self-reliance in energy requirements via intensified and coordinated exploration, exploitation and development of indigenous energy resources, including the Malampaya natural gas field in Palawan, in order to accelerate overall economic growth,
Evardone made the proposal a day after the National Bureau of Investigation filed plunder charges against former President Gloria Arroyo, former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, former Budget and Management Secretary Rolando Andaya, Jr. and 19 others in connection with the alleged pocketing of P900 million worth of Malampaya fund, an allocation which the government sources from the payments of oil companies Caltex and Shell for extracting natural gas in Malampaya oil field in Palawan province.
Evardone’s proposal amends Section 8 of the PD 910 by providing that all fees, revenues and receipts of the Board from any and all sources, including receipts from service contracts and agreements such as application and processing fees, signature bonus, discovery bonus, production bonus; all money collected from concessionaires, representing unspent work obligations, fines and penalties under the Petroleum Act of 1949; as well as the government share representing royalties, rentals, production share on service contracts and similar payments on the exploration, development and exploitation of energy resources, should only 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.
Under the existing PD 910, the Malampaya fund can be spent on energy resource development as well as for other purposes as may be deemed by the President.
“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 in a text message.
The filing of plunder cases before the Ombudsman over the alleged Malampaya fund misuse, Evardone argued, exposed the anomalous exercise of the broad Executive discretion over the Malampaya ‘special fund’ allegedly in the past administration which resulted in dissipation of billions of pesos and has highlighted the urgent need for Congress to modify the law in the exercise of its constitutional duty to check on the activities of the Executive Branch.
Evardone then cited that PD 910 should have been long amended, considering the restoration of the Doctrine of Separation of Powers under the 1987 Constitution, with a slight modification in view of LGU-Palawan’s claim to a portion of the government share pursuant to the Local Government Code.
“PD 910 was promulgated at a time when distorted governance prevailed. It was engendered by the sole will and mind of one man who was then wielding both executive and legislative powers at the same time,” Evardone said in his House Bill, referring to the rule of the late dictator President Ferdinand Marcos.
“While recognizing that existing law came in handy in the rehabilitation of the Typhoons Ondoy and Peping devastations, this bill seeks to amend the law in hopes of limiting the prerogatives of Chief Executive in the disposition of the Malampaya fund,” Evardone added in closing.
The Makabayan bloc—which groups party-list representatives Neri Colmenares and Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, Luz Ilagan and Emerenciana de Jesus of Gabriela, Terry Ridon of Kabataan, Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis and Antonio Tinio of Alliance of Concerned Teachers—earlier filed House Bill 2993 which creates an Energy Development Board and mandates the transfer of Malampaya funds to the General Fund subject to Congressional appropriation.
“The disbursement of which is subject solely to the President’s discretion, making its disbursements very vulnerable to corruption and patronage politics. The Makabayan bloc is prompted to put a stop to the Presidential power over this fund by repealing such Presidential decree and recommends that the income collected by the Department of Energy (DOE) from its service contractors be taken up as income of the General Fund pursuant to EO No. 292 and PD 1445,” Makabayan said in the bill. LLANESCA T. PANTI