MANILA - More than 300 infrastructure projects worth P3.9 billion, funded though proceeds from the Malampaya natural gas project, were found to have violated many standards set by the law, an official of the state auditing agency told a Senate inquiry on Thursday.
Atty. Eden Rafanan of the Commission on Audit (COA) said during a hearing of the Blue Ribbon committee that the 355 projects had been “disallowed” because they failed to meet certain requirements and standards. These projects were either built or finished in 2008 and inspected by the COA the year after.
“They have to return the funds to the government,” Atty. Eden Rafanan of COA said, referring to local governments and project contractors.
For instance, she said details of these projects were not published in the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System, a violation of Republic Act 9184.
Some 55 of these projects also did not comply with the required specifications, while others had no documents for audit, Rafanan added. She did not give specific details about the projects.
Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Teofisto Guingona described the projects as spurious, and said local officials and the contractors must be held liable.
According to Rafanan, the implementing agencies involved are the provincial government of Palawan, city government of Puerto Princesa, and the district of office of the Department of Public Works and Highways. Officials will be invited to the next hearing.
“We already submitted the reports to the Office of the Ombudsman and they will be in charge of the penal aspect,” she said. The cases remain pending.
Guingona said this calls for more transparency, particularly in bidding out projects.
“For example, there is a requirement in the local government code that civil society must be present in the bidding process. According to them, they were not at all there when the bidding took place—if the bidding took place,” he told reporters.
Where’s the money?
Ordinary people also claim not to have benefited at all from Malampaya funds.
Rolando Ulano, president of the Palawan Urban Poor Council, lamented their situation, saying people have not reaped the supposed benefits of the natural gas project: 80 percent of funds for electrification and 20 percent for livelihood.
He said, for instance, that many residents in rural areas still have no electricity and have to pay P200 monthly for solar energy.
“Patuloy kaming naghihirap. Patuloy na maraming nagugutom. Maraming pamilya na hindi makapag-aral ng anak. Marami ang namamatay na hindi nakakakita ng doktor. Libu-libong pamilya ang walang ilaw sa bahay,” Ulano told senators.
“Nasaan ang pera?” he continued. “Sabi nila Yayaman kami. Bakit kami naghihirap?”
Thursday’s hearing was the committee’s first in its probe into alleged anomalies in the implementation of projects in Palawan funded by royalties from Malampaya. The next hearing will be held next week.
The probe was prompted by reports from the Commission on Audit citing discrepancies amounting to about P87.5 million between the reported and the actual accomplishments of projects funded through Malampaya royalties.
A statement from the office of Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said the alleged irregularities in the use of Malampaya funds could be linked to the death in 2011 of Dr. Jerry Ortega, who was active in exposing the anomalies.