Unfair story maligns 37 years of outstanding service
In the Inquirer report “COA questions P660M for gov’t think tank” (News, 9/4/14), facts were twisted or sensationalized, and in one instance a key statement was incorrect. The outcome is that the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) was portrayed as irresponsible and even dishonest. For an institute that prides itself in 37 years of dedicated and outstanding government service, this is devastating. I would like to clarify matters.
Among the different programs under the Disbursement Acceleration Program was the Institutional Capacity Building of Leading State Universities. One of its components is the Grant-in-Aid Research for Research Development and Extension (RDE), which received P560 million in financial support. Since this was designed as a multiyear program, the funds could not be given directly to the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd). Hence, the Department of Budget and Management and CHEd approached PIDS late in December 2011 and requested it to manage the funds. At the same time, they requested PIDS to conduct research studies in support of state universities and colleges (SUCs) in particular, and higher education in general. PIDS therefore retained P56 million of the P560 million and prepared a 3-year research agenda on higher education. Among the very able PIDS research staff are two of the country’s leading experts in education economics: Dr. Aniceto Orbeta and Dr. Vicente Paqueo.
Meanwhile, under a memorandum of agreement executed in February 2012, management of the remaining P504 million was turned over by PIDS to the CHEd. Most of the funds were allocated to various SUCs.
The Inquirer report unfairly described the situation as “huge sums meant to boost the economy remained either unspent or unaccounted for.” It should be noted that the P560 million was released by the DBM in June/July 2012. The Commission on Audit’s report covers the period ending Dec. 31, 2013. Since the project is a multiyear undertaking, it is logical that not all funds will be disbursed and liquidated in an 18-month period. The latter part of the Inquirer report connotes that part of the money has inexplicably disappeared. We take umbrage at this misleading statement. Given the regular project cycle of research and capacity-building, which is medium- to long-term, there has definitely been no anomaly in the manner by which the funds were disbursed.
The decision to support the RDE program under the DAP was made neither by PIDS nor the CHEd. Both government agencies simply utilized funds provided by the DBM in a manner consistent with their mandates and the nature of the project. I believe the COA also missed this point completely.
The other issue is the P100 million allocated under the DAP for PIDS to purchase land and/or to construct its own building. Two engineering studies showed that the 40-year-old Neda Makati building, the current home of PIDS, is structurally unsafe. After exploring many options, PIDS considered the National Housing Authority’s offer as the most feasible alternative. The Inquirer report described the purchase of the 2,580-square-meter property from the NHA as a “bad land investment” because it turned out to be the site of the sewage treatment facility of the Philippine Children Medical Center (PCMC).
The sewage treatment facility is a very minor issue, and this is reflected in the COA report. The facility occupies a small corner in the property and can easily be transferred. The main issue is the PCMC’s reluctance to relinquish control of the property that it currently uses as a parking lot. Likely, the PCMC believes that if this transaction pushes through, it will eventually be evicted from the 37,000-sqm property on which it stands. We sympathize with the PCMC’s plight, but this is a matter between the DBM, PCMC, NHA and Department of Health. PIDS has always transacted business with the NHA and PCMC transparently and in good faith.
—JOSEF T. YAP, former president,
Philippine Institute for Development Studies
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