MANILA, Philippines - Senate leaders moved on Monday to tap the P77.2-billion Malampaya royalties to help fund the record P1.816 trillion proposed national budget for next year that Malacañang is set to submit to lawmakers after President Aquino delivers his state-of-the-nation address (Sona) before a joint session of Congress late this month.
Administration Sen. Ralph Recto recommended that Malacañang make last-minute changes to its proposed 2012 budget by including government’s annual proceeds from the Malampaya natural gas project as part of the funding sources of the budget or budget of expenditures and sources of financing (BESF).
Earlier, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile backed a suggestion of the Commission on Audit (COA) to let Congress allocate the government’s multibillion-peso share from the Malampaya proceeds after state auditors found out that the money was left unused for the past eight years even as P19 billion were spent for projects not related to energy development, contrary to its mandate.
According to Recto, the Malampaya funds “have long been floating up in the budget clouds, the time has come to escort it down to the fold of the GAA or the annual budget.”
Recto cited estimates that government gets from P9 billion to P11 billion yearly as share from the Malampaya gas project. But before it is incorporated in the annual budget, Recto insisted that there ought to first be “a faithful accounting” of the Malampaya funds previously collected that were said to be “lying idle” for the past eight years.
COA findings indicated that a special account maintained by the Department of Energy (DOE) for the Malampaya proceeds recorded a balance of P77.187 billion as of December 31, 2010.
At the same time, Recto, who also sits as vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, required the Department of Finance, Bureau of the Treasury, Department of Budget and Management and the DOE to “make an accurate identification of the Malampaya funds from the ‘special accounts’ line-up.”
Based on COA records, P19.4 billion of the fund went mostly to projects unrelated to energy development while only 1.27% went to the DOE for the electrification of 211 villages.
The Malampaya project started in 2002 involved the extraction of natural gas from the waters of Palawan under an arrangement where the government receives net proceeds from service contractors Shell Philippines Exploration BV and Chevron-Texaco as the operators of the project in which governemnt has a 10% stake through the Philippine National Oil Company-Exploration Corp.