Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon has urged the Senate to look into the issues surrounding the Philippine International Trading Center (PITC)—a relatively lesser-known state firm—which appears to be the “go-to” corporation by agencies to park their unutilized funds.
During the Senate Finance Committee’s deliberation on the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget, Drilon noted that PITC, a little-known procurement agency, is keeping billions of pesos in taxpayers’ money through undelivered services and unreturned balances.
The Senate minority chief said the PITC could have been doing such activity as far back as 2009.
During the interpellation on the proposed budget of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), it was revealed the PITC owes the AFP a total of P9.6-billion as of October this year. The said amount has been “sleeping” in PITC since 2017.
Of the amount, P6.3-billion is the balance owed by PITC to the Philippine Army, P1.9-billion to Philippine Navy, P736-million to Philippine Air Force, and P582-million to AFP General Headquarters.
“I think Senator (Panfilo) Lacson would agree with me that there should be a more detailed examination of this setup,” Drilon said during the deliberations.
“I am appalled that P9.6-billion at least, is in PITC’s hands. The money is sleeping there,” he lamented.
Drilon said he is confident that the Senate leadership will support this move, “because this is something that is really unusual.”
“Honestly, I do not know anymore the extend of funds sleeping in the coffers of PITC. I think this requires closer scrutiny,” he said.
“In the PITC, there is a military procurement group. There is a group assigned for military purchases because, apparently, (one of its) regular customers (is the) military,” he noted.
Drilon said he is alarmed at the agency’s “penchant not to return public money” citing a Commission on Audit’s (COA) which earlier disclosed PITC’s track record of owing various government agencies P9.176-billion in balances.
Based on the COA report, the senator said P9.176-billion refers to the balances of fund transfers from various agencies from 2009 to 2019 which remained unutilized as of December 2019.
He pointed out PITC is also owes the Philippine National Police (PNP) P1.347-billion in undelivered equipment, based on the COA report.
“This is bothersome. This agency is tasked to procure COVID-19 vaccines for Filipinos,” he warned.
The Duterte government has assigned the PITC as the state firm that will import COVID-19 vaccines worth P20-billion. It also stands to earn a commission of anywhere between 1 to 5 percent or from P200-million to P1-billion from procuring government agencies such as the AFP
This matter baffled Drilon and other senators: “Why? Why is the commission taken from the procuring agency? Isn’t it the commission should be charged against the servicing company?” Drilon asked.
Some senators have already expressed doubts on the ability of the PITC, an agency attached to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to facilitate the procurement of the COVID-19 vaccines, with Senators Ralph Recto and Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara joking that the vaccines may already be obsolete once their purchases arrive in the Philippines.