By Corina Oliquino

MANILASenators Panfilo Lacson (also chairperson of the Senate committee on National Defense and Security) and Ronald ‘Bato’ dela Rosa on April 13, backed the proposal of Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman to sell several military golf courses to generate additional funds of up to ₱150 billion to fight the coronavirus pandemic and its adverse effects.

“As long as the physical security of military facilities will not be compromised if we cut the golf courses inside the military camps and sell the same to private developers, I am all for it, as well as other out-of-the-box ideas,” Lacson said in a message to reporters on GMA News, noting the current emergency requires extraordinary measures “including quick and harsh punishments for gross incompetence but especially against those who steal and take advantage of public funds intended to save us from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In a report by GMA News, Lagman in a statement urged the government to consider selling the golf courses in Camp Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo, Villamor Air Base and the Veterans Memorial Medical Center to help fund a stimulus package to combat the country’s COVID-19 fight.

Lagman added that in 1992, the government sold the 240-hectare Fort Bonifacio and its 18-hole championship golf course for ₱33,283.88 per square meter, as well as the privatization of the 25-hectare Villamor Air Base now known as the urban integrated Tourism resort complex Newport City.

“RA 7227 mandates the Bases Conversion and Development Authority to convert part of military bases into alternative productive civilian use,” Lagman said.

“There are many more hectares of military camps and other civilian government lands nationwide which could be tapped for privatization, including those owned by State Universities and Colleges which are not utilized or undeveloped,” he added.

In a briefing aired late April 9, President Rodrigo Duterte said he would consider selling government assets if funds to combat COVID-19 run out.

“Pag maubos talaga ang pera, ipabili ko lahat ng propiyedad ng gobyerno. Iyang Cultural Center, PICC, yung lupa diyan. Totoo,” Duterte said.

“Kapag wala na akong makuha and we are about to sink, and really sink, I will sell all the assets of government tapos itulong ko sa tao,” he added.

Lacson is also in favor of President Duterte’s statement considering the sale of government assets as a last resort.

Dela Rosa, on the other hand, is backing Lagman’s proposal.

“I am OK with that as long as there is complete transparency in every transaction in order to avoid another failed promise of AFP modernization from the sale of Fort Bonifacio,” Dela Rosa said in a separate message.

Drilon wants PAGCOR, PCSO privatized to raise funds for the COVID-19 fight

In another report by GMA News, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon in his Easter Sunday statement urged the government and its economic managers to privatize the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR) and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) to generate more funds for its effort against COVID-19.

Drilon is also calling for the review of government assets which could be sold off, noting the so-called “low-hanging” fruits can boost the government’s war chest and finance efforts against COVID-19.

“We have an untapped ‘goldmine’ that can generate up to PHP300 billion in fresh revenues yearly. I hope our economic managers will move faster this this time because the effects of COVID-19 pandemic will go beyond 2020,” Drilon said.

“Let us turn this COVID-19 crisis into an opportunity to better utilize government assets. Better utilization of these state assets is long overdue as a national policy,” he added.

According to the report, “Republic Act 7656 or the Dividend Law mandates PAGCOR to remit at least 50 percent of its annual net earnings as cash, stock, and/or property as dividends to the national government.”

“As I said before, the government does not have to look far to raise additional revenues. There are ‘low-hanging fruits’ the government can immediately tap to provide the much-needed resources for our country to survive this pandemic,” Drilon said.

Meanwhile, Finance Sec. Carlos Dominguez III said the government is considering raising $23 billion or ₱1.17 trillion for the country’s COVID-19 effort.