PITC unloads P2-B parked fund! Some P30-B more under its possession photo Inquirer.net
Government

PITC unloads P2-B parked fund! Some P30-B more under its possession?

Oct 20, 2021, 5:51 AM
Rose De La Cruz

Rose De La Cruz

Columnist

The Philippine International Trading Corp., now under new management, has been returning funds ‘parked’ in it by national and local government agencies, including P 10.2 billion to the national treasury and has committed to return another P2 billion soon.

FACED with mounting pressure and scrutiny by the public, the Philippine International Trading Corp. (PITC) is forced to unload some of its so-called ‘parked’ funds.

Parked funds

Parked funds are budgets allotted for specific items for purchase which were entrusted by various agencies to the PITC for the latter to buy at terms that are advantageous to the government.

However, some senators including Sen. Franklin Drilon and Sen. Ping Lacson charged that instead of buying the required items, some people at PITC keep the money and deposit them in banks where they earn interests, or invest in stock markets for huge fees and commissions.

The money earned from these schemes that runs in tens of millions are believed being pocketed by some officials of the agency.

Moneymaking scheme

In the latest Senate budget hearing of the agency, Christabelle Ebriega, acting president of PITC, gave the assurance to remit P1.965 billion of their fund to the national treasury.

The assurance was made in response to questions from Drilon (the one who first exposed the anomalous parked funds in 2020) regarding the huge fund transfers from various agencies for procurements and to undertake projects in their stead.

P33-B

To recall, Drilon, in November 2020, said he suspects over P33 billion in government funds parked with PITC, a firm under the Department of Trade and Industry.

But after reviewing the audited financial statements, he said, there could be more.

Eibrega said they have been returning the funds to national and local government agencies in past year, instead of being returned to the national treasury, with their latest commitment to unload nearly P2 billion.

Ebriega, a career official, took over as officer-in-charge of PITC after the resignation of its former head, Dave Almarinez, who was grilled in the Senate last year for his agency’s refusal to return billions of parked funds.

Charges

Almarinez, who reportedly filed his certificate of candidacy for a local post, is facing various criminal charges before the Office of the Ombudsman over PITC’s handling of various government monies under his watch.

Drilon initially said there may be about P18 billion, but after reviewing audited financial statements as of December 31, 2019, PITC had customer deposits of P33.4 billion.

“Now assuming that there are some private sector deposits which is not much, you are talking about funds to the tune of P33 billion in government funds deposited in a small trading firm,” Drilon said.

Government agencies tap the PITC when they are supposed to purchase goods and products, "and pass on the budget there so that they will say it is already obligated when in truth and fact it is just deposited," said Drilon.

Mandate

PITC’s mandate is to "embark on major business activities including joint ventures, foreign procurement and distribution, warehousing and dealerships, among others."

It is also supposed to "engage in both export and import trading new or non-traditional products and markets not normally pursued by the private business sector; and provide a wide range of export oriented auxiliary services to the private sector."

But Drilon said the Bureau of Fire Protection deposited about P150 million to the PITC and tasked it to build some 98 fire stations. The company also failed to deliver 242 firetrucks, he said.

"The charter of PITC says they are a trading company. How is it that they are now engaged in the construction of 98 fire stations and they have not delivered," he asked.

Deposit interest

He also questioned if the interest of these deposits is remitted back to the government once they earn.

Drilon likewaise raised how much was remitted to the treasury from the profits of the 1-to-5-percent service fee the PITC charges.

The senators finds it "worrisome" that this agency is being tapped to lead the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines, which could be allocated some P20 billion from the 2021 budget. With a 1 percent commission, the PITC could earn about P200 million.

Welcome move

Meanwhile, some senators welcomed the agency’s move to return the monies to the treasury, “especially that every cent counts in the fight against COVID-19 pandemic that left thousands, if not millions, of Filipinos jobless and hungry.”

PITC has some P20 billion remaining in transfers from various agencies. It first returned P102.0 billion and more are coming.

As if to rebuke President Duterte’s comment that the Senate is nothing but a pulpit for grandstanding, Drilon said in mixed English/Filipino: “The Senate is also of some use”.

“When we exposed these shortcomings, the PITC remitted P10.20 billion and more are coming. We showed to some people in the executive branch that the Senate also does something right. There are results to what we do,” he added.

Since the exposé, the PITC has started to return unused and parked funds to the national coffers.

Recently, it returned about P10.2 billion to augment the government’s COVID-19 pandemic response.

Tags: #PITC, #NationalTreasury, #’parkedfunds,’ #Senatebudgethearing, #economy


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