DOF: Gov't has no more 'crown jewel’ asset to sell

Published August 30, 2021, 4:44 PM

by Chino S. Leyco

As the government looks for money to run a nation grappling with the impacts of the prolonged pandemic, President Duterte’s chief economic manager revealed that selling state-assets is no longer the best option.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III

“We don’t have any more crown jewels,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said, referring to high-value public assets such as land and shares of stock that can be easily sold to raise substantial fresh revenues. “That has been privatized by previous administrations already.”

President Duterte has been pushing for the disposal of several state-owned assets to shore up government revenues. Dominguez has identified a couple of government mining assets and thousands of land titles that can be put up for bidding.

But “these are not chunky assets anymore, like before you had big assets like banks, etc.,” Dominguez said.

At the height of the fiscal crisis in 2004, the Arroyo administration embarked on a massive privatization program to increase government revenues. Among the state assets sold were the “crown jewels.”

They include the sale of Philippine National Oil Co. – Energy Development Corp., the country’s largest producer of geothermal energy and was largely credited for the Philippines being the second largest producer of geothermal energy in the world.

The government also sold its remaining stake in other crown jewels, such as Petron Corp., and Manila Electric Co. Under the administration of former President President Benigno Aquino, the DOF had sold the Taguig City property Food Terminal Inc.

“We are left with are really the difficult ones to privatize,” the finance chief pointed. “So we don’t have those big chunks anymore. It’s really the difficult ones to privatize now.”

On top of the list of assets for disposal under the current administration are idle mines initially identified by the Privatization and Management Office (PMO), an agency under the DOF.

“When it comes to disposition of mines, it is more complicated than just selling a piece of land or an ordinary asset because when you come to mines, number one, there are lots of claims and counter claims and challenges to claims,” Dominguez said.

“Number two, there are security, physical security issues. And number three, there is a valuation of what you are really selling, so these are the issues that we have to go through with that,” he added.

Aside from mining assets, the government is also determined to unload pieces of lands under the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC) and PMO.

“I don’t know if you are aware that PDIC and PMO have in excess of 30,000 land titles that are in the process of being evaluated and being privatized, being sold. And these are really difficult assets. These are not chunky assets anymore,” Dominguez said.