by Charissa Luci, 12 April 2015
from Manila Bulletin
Former soldiers-turned party list lawmakers are proposing that the Malampaya fund be tapped to finance energy – related expenses of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) tasked with ensuring the security of critical infrastructures in the Malampaya gas platform and other energy-related projects.
MAGDALO party list Rep. Gary Alejano and Rep. Francisco Ashley Acedillo filed House Bill 5481 to amend Section 8 of the Presidential Decree No. 910 to allow the financing of energy-related expenses of the military in the use of the special fund.
“One of the basic and most urgent requirements for the peaceful and successful exploration and development of energy resource in the country is safety and security in the area. This is because energy resources are often found in isolated and sometimes contested areas. Hence, security provided by the military is often an indispensable requirement for the successful pursuit of any energy-related project,” Alejano said.
HB 5481 seeks to ensure the continued viability of the country’s energy program by including guidelines for utilization of the special fund to include the financing of energy-related expenses of the AFP, such as but not limited to provisions for operational support, capacity building, acquisition of vessels, machinery and materiel, bases and support system development and technology development for the security and protection of the Malampaya oil and gas fields and other energy projects.
SECURITY NEAR DISPUTED WATERS
He even noted that the Malampaya gas and oil fields, which are near disputed waters off Palawan continue to remain secure because of the efforts of the AFP, particularly the Philippine Navy, which constantly patrol the area with ships coming from the Naval Forces West (NavForWest) operating at Oyster Bay, Palawan, the country’s first line of defense in the disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea.
“Unfortunately, the existing law is silent with regard the provision of military support for energy-related projects to guarantee the security of critical infrastructures in the Malampaya gas platform and other energy related projects,” he said.
Acedillo said prior to the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling, which declared unconstitutional the President’s use of the Malampaya fund in projects not related to energy as it violated the principle of “non-delegability” of legislative power, President Aquino was able to prudently approve the release of necessary funding to the AFP in order to expand and fortify the defenses for natural gas exploration in northern Palawan.
The Malampaya fund, which consists of royalties collected from operations of the Malampaya gas and oil fields in the waters off Palawan province was created to provide funds to finance energy-related projects and for other purposes that may be decided by the President.
“However,such huge presidential latitude purportedly became a blanket approval for the past administration to abuse said power. The fund was allegedly drained to accommodate bogus projects of the non-government organizations (NGOs) of Mrs. Janet Lim Napoles, in collusion with government officials,” Acedillo said.
He said the present law, which is “laced with noble intentions but little guidelines,” has to be revisited.