Palaweños biggest losers in Malampaya fund plunder
If millions of Filipino taxpayers are cursing Janet Lim-Napoles for the pork barrel scam, and the teeming poor and unemployed are writhing in pain and hunger for having been deprived of billions of pesos in diverted pork funds, the people of Palawan are stupefied and angry about having been cheated in the handling of the Malampaya fund.
Officially and geographically a part of Palawan province, the Malampaya area was declared national territory by executive fiat, in effect detaching it from its local government unit and depriving the latter of its lawful share from the earnings of the oil fields. Since then, though contested by provincial officials, the sole power to dispose of the Malampaya fund was bestowed on the head of the national government. It was rumored that by special
arrangements with some provincial authorities, huge amounts were given to Palawan, but to whom and how much remain a mystery. Only the sands of Amanpulo and other paradise islands in the province stand mute witnesses to secret meetings regarding the fate of the Malampaya fund. The late Gerry Ortega staked his life researching and exposing what he knew, but he was gunned down to keep him silent forever.
Imagine the dismay of Palaweños when the Napoles scandal exploded and revealed that the Malampaya fund was not spared by her network of greed. Like the millions of farmers who were mercilessly used as doormats to gain access to the treasure chests intended for them, Palaweños are furious about the wanton diversion of their rightful share in the oil fund now said to have reached billions.
Long treated like a distant cousin by imperial Manila, Palawan gained attention when oil was discovered in Malampaya. Transnational corporations like Shell Philippines, Chevron and Malampaya LLC partnered with the Philippine National Oil Co. in an exploration contract with the Philippine government. Starting with a measly 10-percent share in royalties, the fund ballooned to figures which even the people in the budget and energy departments cannot now honestly count and reconcile. Being huge and cloaked with vulnerability, the fund became a magnet for graft. Ironically, despite its gargantuan size, the supposed recipients did not see it. Only Napoles, perhaps, knew where it went.
Today, Palawan is in dire need of funds for infrastructure development. This jewel of our western seas is endowed with tremendous wealth and beauty but its airport needs upgrading, it needs to build and improve roads and highways leading to its world-class heritage sites, and it needs to install adequate security to protect its submarine gardens and coral reefs from commercial poachers and incompetent navigators. Properly developed and protected from rapacious enemies of the environment, Palawan can be a world-class tourist destination and a rich playing field for energy and other investors.
—EVA MAGGAY INCIONG,
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