Gov’t vows to spend more for energy projects
The Aquino administration has vowed to boost spending for energy and energy-related projects using the P80-billion Malampaya funds held by the national treasury.
In a briefing on Friday, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad admitted that the government had so far drawn only a little more than P4 billion to cover the subsidies extended to specific beneficiaries and programs.
The Malampaya funds have been used for the operations of state-run National Power Corp.’s Small Utilities Power Group (SPUG) and the government’s Pantawid Pasada program.
Napocor’s SPUG was tasked to provide electricity in off-grid and most remote areas in the country.
The Pantawid Pasada program provides cash to jeepney and tricycle drivers to help them cope with the rising prices of fuel.
The Malampaya funds were also used to help finance rural electrification projects and the government’s recent purchase of the Hamilton blue ship, which is being used to secure petroleum exploration areas in the country.
“Next year, we will program more aggressively energy-related projects using the Malampaya funds, ” Abad said.
At the sidelines of an economic briefing yesterday, Energy Secretary Jose Rene D. Almendras said the government had so far withdrawn only P500 million from the P8- billion budget meant for the Armed Forces of the Philippines to boost security forces within prospective and existing petroleum exploration areas in the country.
The P8-billion allocation, according to Almendras, will be used to fund the training of AFP personnel and the purchase of the necessary equipment, including radar systems, three blue water ships from the United States and helicopters.
The funds will also be used to prepare for rescue operations in case of accidents on the rig.
A number of oil rigs, Almendras earlier disclosed, were being serviced by Malaysian firms, which was “embarrassing.”
Industry groups earlier urged the government to use the Malampaya funds to help lower electricity prices in the country. The Philippine Independent Power Producers Association (Pippa) suggested using some $300 million of the royalties that the government earned from the Malampaya operations for this particular purpose.
Almendras admitted that based on existing policies, the Malampaya royalties were not meant to be used for the purpose of lowering power rates since it was earmarked for “energy sources.” However, he said he would still look into the proposal and study how this mechanism could be implemented.
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