A Senate Finance subcommittee has directed the Privatization and Management Office (PMO) to submit a list of the total assets held by the government agency and their rough valuation, in order to give policy makers a better idea of the possible revenue stream from privatization, given the tight fiscal situation.
A vice chairman of the panel, Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian, made the request to the PMO towards the end of a hearing on Monday led by Finance Committee Chief Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” M. Angara, on the 2024 budget of the Department of Finance (DOF) and its attached agencies.
Gatchalian asked the PMO, one of the agencies attached to the DOF, to specify the books under which the assets have been valued on, and the status of privatization.
The PMO official told the senators, however, that the valuation would be very rough and tentative, because in many cases, “we discover the tax liability only when we are trying to dispose” of an asset, and such liability could impact the final valuation of these.
In reply, Gatchalian asked the agency, nonetheless, to submit the rough valuation with the caveat that the amount might change later.
THE senators learned that in all, the agency holds “28,000 titles” to real estate, and that the PMO manages government shares in tollways, mining rights, shares in government-owned or -controlled corporations, among others.
The total value of the assets is hard to estimate, explained the PMO representative, “because some assets were inherited from the Asset Privatization Trust a long time ago.”
Also at the hearing, senators asked Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno for an update on the preparations being made to set up the Maharlika Investment Fund. During deliberations on the MIF law, Diokno had indicated that some assets for privatization, such as mining rights, are among those being eyed to provide the resources for setting up the MIF.
Diokno told senators the government is on track in setting up the MIF and that the process for choosing the top officers of the Maharlika Investment Corp.—its president and CEO, two regular directors and three independent directors—is proceeding apace.
Senators were told that the seed funding has also been inputed: P75 billion each from Land Bank of the Philippines and Development Bank of the Philippines; and, P25 billion in declared dividends from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.
‘Prudent’ budget hike
AT the Angara-led hearing, Diokno presented the department’s proposed consolidated budget of P32.4 billion for 2024, including its attached agencies and corporations, before the Finance Subcommittee A.
Diokno said the 2024 budget proposal reflects a prudent increase of 3.6 percent compared to the DOF 2023 budget.
According to Diokno, the agency’s comprehensive budget allocation encompasses new general appropriations (P24.7 billion), automatic appropriations (P2.9 billion), budgetary support to GOCCs (P4.5 billion) and unprogrammed appropriations (P210.5 million).
Also at the hearing, Angara asked Diokno if he favors allowing a certain agency to raise the salaries of their employees to attract talented employees.
“If we really want good people, we need to make the position special,” Angara pointed out.
Diokno, in response, agreed that there is a justification not only for salary adjustment but reclassification of positions as well.