Pangilinan: Palace can transfer P33.4B ‘parked funds’ for COVID vaccines

AN EXECUTIVE order should be issued to transfer back to the National Treasury the P33.4 billion parked in the bank accounts of the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) to buy a huge chunk of the COVID-19 vaccines for Filipinos, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said Wednesday.

“Since the PITC is under the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), it is in the realm of executive action to order the immediate return of the said amounts. And because we are in search of funds to purchase vaccines, then an executive order that mandates the return of these funds to the National Treasury is well within the powers of the Executive,” Pangilinan said.

The senator was reacting to Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon’s privilege speech Tuesday calling on the Senate to compel the small trading company to revert the amount to the national coffers. Drilon said the PITC is being used by government agencies to avoid the requirement of returning unspent public funds.

An estimated P73.2 billion is needed to pay for the COVID-19 vaccinations of 60 million Filipinos.

“Ang dali-dali nitong gawin. Hanap tayo nang hanap ng pera para sa COVID vaccines at kung anu-ano pang mga pangangailangan ng ating kapwa Pilipino, e nandito na ang naka-park lang na P33.4 billion,” Pangilinan said, noting the recent devastating typhoons on top of the pandemic and various lockdowns.

“Malaking bahagi na itong P33.4 billion ng P73.2 billion na kailangan para sa pagbabakuna kontra COVID,” he added.

With the amount, Pangilinan also said the government need not secure loans or if still needed, does not have to apply for a huge amount of loans that could further plunge the Filipinos into indebtedness.

As of end-August this year, the Philippine government’s outstanding debt stood at P9.615 trillion mainly due to the coronavirus crisis.

During Tuesday’s interpellation, Pangilinan also confirmed from Drilon that the P33.4 billion is in banks or in money market placements, appearing as assets of PITC and earning billions of interest.

“Para silang naghihilamos sa pera o naliligo sa perang naririyan sa kanila,” Pangilinan said.

On Pangilinan’s questioning, Drilon also said that the money could have been sleeping with PITC for years.

“In effect, your CEO or whoever is in charge is like a glorified parking attendant rather than a trading expert because of all the money that is being parked,” Pangilinan said.

As to plans to have PITC undertake the COVID-19 vaccine procurement, Pangilinan said the capacity of the corporation to deliver results is questionable.

“Why bring that much fund to purchase vaccines into an entity that has failed miserably in delivering in terms of purchasing or utilizing funds in the last 10 years?” he said.

Pangilinan said the corporation’s failure to utilize the appropriated P33.4 billion could be also a “gross and inexcusable negligence” on the part of its officials.

“I’ll leave that matter to be pondered upon when we go into the committee hearings,” he said.