Palace pressed to scrap midnight sale of gov’t assets

by TC Concepcion and Bb. Joyce Cabral

Manila, Philippines-The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) urged President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to issue an executive order mandating an across-the-nation freeze of supposed plans to privatize and sell government assets in the remaining months of her term to prevent the administration party from using the proceeds for the electoral campaign of Malacanang favored bets in the 2010 elections.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said the Office of the President is politically, morally and lawfully obliged to stop the plan auction of state assets, particularly the sale of government-owned prime property in the Fujimi district in Tokyo, which houses the residence of the Philippine Ambassador to Japan.

Hicap made the proposal to Malacanang after Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. warned that privatization could fatten the campaign war chest of the Arroyo administration with the looming midnight sale of a Philippine property in Japan.

The opposition senator was referring to the government-owned property in Tokyo, which according to real estate insiders and the Department of Finance could net P 3 billion for the government.

The Fujimi property in Tokyo district is still in the government list for sale and privatization, although Malacanang denied that the property is going to be developed for commercial purposes. Sen. Pimentel argued that the government had entered into an agreement with a real estate firm to build a commercial multistory building on the Fujimi property, which was acquired by the Philippine government in 1943 through the efforts of then President Jose Laurel Sr.

“President Arroyo is transforming this country into a house of midnight sale extravaganza. We agree with the observations of the Senate Minority Leader that her government is on a rampaging money making campaign for elections by disposing government properties and shares of stocks to the highest bidders to satisfy the regime’s greed for fat kickbacks and in preparation for the 2010 electoral derby,” the Pamalakaya official added.

Hicap’s group had previously opposed the sale of government shares in Petron and Meralco, as well as the planned auction of military camps in Bukidnon (10,000 hectares), Fort Magsaysay in Laur, Nueva Ecija (7,100 hectares) and Tumandok in Panay Island, asserting that these vast hectares of agricultural lands should have been distributed to landless farmers in the country.

Pamalakaya said the proposed executive order mandating concerned government agencies to stop the disposal of state assets should also cover the alleged plans to sell the sprawling complex of the National Center for Mental Health and Welfareville or Boys Town in Mandaluyong, the premises of the national penitentiary in Muntinlupa City, the Home for the Aged in Quezon City and the Philippine Coastal Corporation.

The militant group also said the government should scrap the auction of the 103-hectare complex of the Food Terminal Inc. (FTI) in Taguig City, which is expected to generate P 14 billion for the government, and the other plans such as the sale of government remaining shares in Petron, in San Miguel Corporation (SMC) and in the PNOC Energy Exploration Corp.

Last year, the Macapagal-Arroyo government raised P 90.6 billion from the privatization of state-assets- reportedly the highest ever recorded income for such transactions. The biggest asset sold last year was the National Transmission Corp. This year, the government intends to generate about P 80 billion from the privatization of power plants of the National Power Corporation.

Pamalakaya likewise pressed Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile and House Speaker Prospero Nograles to issue a joint resolution calling President Arroyo or the Office of the President and its concerned government agencies to stop the privatization and sale of all state assets.

“This will effectively stop Ms Arroyo and the ruling gangland in Malacanang from public assets that were put up by the millions of the Filipino taxpaying public. We don’t want to wake up one morning and see for ourselves the entire Philippines is already sold to foreign clients of the Arroyo mafia,” the group said.

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