By Genalyn Kabiling
A prospective buyer has estimated the cost of a government property at P20 billion but such amount will not result in adequate additional revenues for government coffers in order to cover more families in the social amelioration program, Malacañang said Wednesday.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said he reached out to the potential buyer of a state property after President Duterte appeared “very serious” in his plan to sell some government assets to shore up resources to provide relief to those in need amid the pandemic.
“I called the prospective buyer and I asked ‘How much is the estimated value of the asset?’ The person said about 20 billion ‘no. And I said, ‘Oh my goodness, that’s not even enough,” because we need 50 billion more pesos if we were to give first and second tranches to the five million additional beneficiaries,'” Roque said in an interview over ANC’s Headstart program.
“So maybe the President also realized that even if we were to sell that particular asset, it would not be enough to pay for the two tranches of financial aid to 23 million families,” he added.
Roque admitted that the President mentioned one government property that may be up for sale during their recent conversation.
Duterte previously disclosed plans to raise funds for the coronavirus response, including possibly selling assets like the Cultural Center of the Philippines, Philippine International Convention Center and land along Manila Bay. Other fundraising efforts earlier floated were the realignment of the national budget and resorting to borrowing from lending institutions.
“He was very serious. When I talked to him at the time when he said ‘I want to give SAP to all the additional five million families,’ he mentioned one property,” Roque said.
Asked to identify this state property, Roque said: “I’d rather not mention. I’d rather not mention ‘no but—and that’s why I knew he was dead serious about it.”
In his televised public address Tuesday night, the President discussed the government’s limited resources due to low tax collection while the country remained under community quarantine. He said he wanted to give financial aid to everyone in need but the problem is “wala tayong kita (we have no revenues).”
Duterte also said he was looking for funds for the purchase of the coronavirus vaccine once it is available in the market.
He then dropped hints about the possible disposal of some government assets but has apparently been advised by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III to defer such plan for now.
He said Dominguez cautioned against getting a “bad deal” due to the current “buyer’s option.” Duterte said he agreed with the advice of his finance chief.
“Gusto ko nga sana magpabili pero sabi ni Secretary Dominguez na ayaw niya kasi kung magpabili daw ako ngayon, ang presyo mura kasi it’s the buyer’s option eh. Siya ‘yung magsabi kung magkano. Hindi naman tayo nagpapabili. Tayo nangangailangan (I want to sell but Secretary Dominguez said he is opposed to it because I sell now, the price will be cheap. It’s the buyer’s option. He will dictate the prices. We are not the one buying. We are the one in need),” he said.
“Sabi niya na they will have a — we’ll get a bad deal at this time. I agree but iyong akin naman that sana kung magkawala-wala na talaga ng pera — ewan ko kung saan tayo magkuha pa. Madali na siguro. Basta may vaccine na, puwede na tayong makahiram (He said we’ll get a bad deal at this time. I agree but for me, it can be done if we really don’t have money. I don’t know where we will get it. Maybe it will be easy. Once a vaccine is found, we can borrow),” he said.