P200b 'idle' Malampaya fund can be tapped for other purposes if Congress to amend law, DBM chief says
Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno urged on Wednesday Congress to amend the law that will allow the government to tap the "idle" P200 billion proceeds from Malampaya project in Palawan province.
Diokno agreed with the findings of the Commission on Audit of the "clear" misuse of the P36.288 billion in royalties from the Malampaya gas fields from 2004 to 2012.
But as to whether there was misuse of the fund, Diokno said in a press briefing in Pasig City, "that has to be determined by the court."
The recently released COA report called for the "immediate investigation" of the DBM and other government agencies over the irregularities in the use of Malampaya funds.
COA has said he DBM failed to comply with certain documents and processes required under existing laws, rules and regulations in the issuance of the special allotment orders and notice of cash allocations.
Diokno noted that the previous administrations, particularly the Arroyo and Aquino governments, "stretched" the use of the Malampaya fund for "other purposes."
Then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued in 2009 an executive order expanding the use of the Malampaya fund for other purposes, apart from energy-related projects.
In Belgica v. Ochoa, which the Supreme Court decided in November 2013, it declared unconstitutional Section 8 of Presidential Decree No. 910, particularly the phrase "and for such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the President."
Under P.D. No. 910 issued by late President Ferdinand Marcos, Diokno said that the Malampaya fund could only be used for government's efforts relating to energy "generation and exploration" and "not consumption" or other uses, such as acquisition of military vessels to man Malampaya pipeline or giving subsidy to transportation.
In order to tap the some P200-billion Malampaya fund that "lie idle," he said, "We have to change the purpose of the fund...so (we might) as well give it to the Treasury and let Congress appropriate it...we have other needs for the P200 billion." Celerina Monte/DMS