Lacson urges gov’t to revisit use of PITC as procurement arm

Robie de Guzman   •   November 24, 2020   •   185

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson has called on the government to look into its practice of using the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) as a procurement arm.

Lacson said utilizing the PITC for procurement requirements of several national government agencies may have to be “revisited and stopped” to “save on unnecessary expenses amounting to billions of pesos in delays and commissions or service fees.”

The senator also questioned the PITC’s existence, saying that the agency may have “outlived its purpose.”

“Since the creation of the Government Procurement Service under the Department of Budget and Management, the PITC may have outlived its purpose,” Lacson said in a statement on Monday.

“Initially, it was only used to circumvent the procurement of medicines, especially for emergency needs. But later, it has expanded into the procurement of other items like rice,” he added.

Some senators earlier pointed that that the practice of using PITC to procure items only allowed departments to make it appear that their budgets had been obligated.

It was recently tapped to be the state’s procurement arm for COVID-19 vaccines tentatively pegged to amount to over P70 billion through loans.

Lacson said that it would be prudent that the government at least “take a long hard look” at the involvement of the PITC in the procurement of vaccines.

Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon earlier said he would push for a Senate inquiry into the books of the PITC after voicing out suspicion that billions of government funds were “parked” at the PITC.

He said government agencies usually use the services of PITC when they are supposed to purchase products, and “pass on the budget there so that they will say that these are already obligated when in fact they are just deposited.”

Vaccine deal with Pfizer still on — Lacson

Marje Pelayo   •   December 17, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — Senator Panfilo Lacson confirmed that the Philippines’ negotiation with pharmaceutical giant Pfizer for the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine is still ongoing.

Lacson cited the assurance from Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Romualdez that the new initiative between Pfizer and the Philippines will continue.

“Only pushed back to a later date of delivery possibly June next year because we did not act quick enough on the CDA (Confidential Disclosure Agreement). Other countries got ahead of us like Singapore,” Romualdez said.

Lacson pinned the delay on Health Secretary Francisco Duque III saying the Philippines would have secured the delivery of 10 million doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines as early as January next year had Duque acted on the documentary requirements needed for the deal such as the Confidentiality Disclosure Agreement (CDA).

The deal had been set between United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin as early as July this year.

Lacson said Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez had also assured Ambassador Romualdez and Sec. Locsin that money would be made available.

But Duque denied all allegations saying the process couldn’t just be done in haste.

“There is no such a thing that I did not act quick enough. The thing is, you go through a process. You cannot just be hurrying up things just like that. You have to be prudent and cautious especially because you are talking about a brand-new — a novel vaccine at that,” he said in a statement.

“Tuloy-tuloy lang kami sa  mga reviews nung mga conditionalities /provisions and I just wanted to make sure na hindi onerous or disadvantageous to government yung mga provisions,” Duque said adding that he had to refer the matter to the lawyers of Department of Science and Technology (DOST) as well as the lawyers of the Executive Secretary.

He said it was then submitted to him on October 20 and he signed it.

“So there is no such a thing as somebody ‘dropping the ball’. It is really an ongoing negotiation,” the Health Secretary argued.

Meanwhile, Senator Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said that should the accusations against Duque be proven true, the health chief may face charges of gross inexcusable negligence which is a violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

“Kung totoo ito na nagkulang ang DOH, gross and inexcusable negligence sa anti-graft law ang posibleng kaso,” Pangilinan concluded. MNP (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Finance Department oders PITC to remit unused public funds

Marje Pelayo   •   December 1, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Finance (DOF) ordered the Philippine International Trading Corporation (PITC) to remit all income from interests it generated from various government agencies so the fund may used for the government’s response against coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic and relief efforts to areas affected by the recent typhoons.

In a statement, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez wrote to Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez who chairs the PITC Board to remit to the national treasury a total of P1.1 billion that the corporation collected from the years 2018 and 2019.

The said amount was the balance of the interest income from funds of various government agencies supposedly for equipment that has been noted as “parked” funds in the state-run corporation.

The DOF noted that in 2019, the PITC had a trust liabilities of P33-B while from the start of this year to October it had P32.6-B.

“Following our discussion, we would like to request the return to the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) by PITC, the interest earned on such funds held in trust. From 2018 to 2019, the interest earned on such funds totaled P1.151 billion,” Sec. Dominguez confirmed.

Dominguez cited a Commission on Audit (COA) report which stresses that PITC’s non-remittance of the said fund to the National Treasury is a clear violation of the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines.

Prior to this, Dominguez also notified Budget Secretary Wendel Avisado through a letter of his order to PITC to return the P33-B to the national treasury.

Senator Franklin Drilon who raised the issue on the ‘parked’ unused public funds at PITC suggested the termination of the agency citing the problems it causes the government for concealing public funds. 

Also, Drilon said PITC seems to be a duplication of government function because the Budget Department also has an existing procurement service, not to mention each government agency’s Bids and Awards Committee that do similar work as PITC. MNP (with reports from Harlene Delgado)

Lacson urges Cayetano to resume House plenary session to pass 2021 budget

Robie de Guzman   •   October 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Thursday called on House leaders to resume plenary sessions and approve the proposed 2021 national budget this month to avoid having a re-enacted spending plan next year.

Lacson said the House of Representatives is supposed to transmit the General Appropriations Bill to the Senate between Oct. 12 to 14 but House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano suspended the sessions this week amid the chamber’s speakership row.

The senator said he has already reached out to Cayetano to suggest the resumption of sessions to pass the budget bill on third and final reading.

“I have just suggested to the Speaker if it’s possible for him to resume their session, which is merely suspended and not adjourned, before All Saints’ Day just to approve on third and final reading the House version of the budget measure and thereafter transmit the same to us,” Lacson said.

The budget proposal was approved on second reading prior to the suspension of sessions.

Cayetano insisted that the abrupt suspension would only delay the transmission of the budget bill to the Senate for a day which was disputed by senators.

“Between Oct. 12 and 14 when the Senate is originally scheduled to receive the transmittal of the General Appropriations Bill from the House of Representatives, and Nov. 17 when the Speaker said they will be able to transmit the same to us, is definitely not a one-day difference as claimed by Speaker Cayetano,” Lacson said.

“I also told him the senators, especially the finance committee vice chairpersons, need at least one week to study the House version and submit to the mother committee our reports. Another week will be needed for the finance committee to consolidate everything and file its committee report,” he added.

Lacson said that in doing so, the Senate will be able to start floor debates immediate when it resumes session on Nov. 16.

Under the law, the House must first approve on final reading the budget bill before the Senate can tackle the measure.

Congress needs to pass the bill and transmit it for the president’s signature before the current government spending expires on Dec. 31.

“That is the only way we can ensure the timely passage of the budget measure. We cannot afford an impasse involving the most important piece of legislation that Congress has to pass: the national budget,”

If no new appropriations plan will be passed, the government will be forced to operate on a re-enacted budget that does not provide for COVID-19 response projects.

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