COLUMN: Stop oil smuggling, Mr. President – ‘SHARP EDGES’ by JAKE MADERAZO
By: Jake Maderazo
Is the Duterte administration not outraged at the rampant and plunderous smuggling of petroleum products amid rising oil prices?
The Department of Finance says the government lost a staggering P26.87 billion in forgone revenues in 2016. Asian Development Bank estimates a P37.5-billion loss, while the domestic oil industry’s figures are higher at P43.8 billion every year.
The administration is banking on the “fuel marking system” to end oil smuggling and misdeclarations. It was originally set to be implemented earlier this year but the schedule was moved to mid-2018 and again to early 2019.
Will oil smugglers continue to enjoy undisturbed their P26-billion to P43-billion stash until January 2019? Why don’t we start arresting and charging these guys in court now? The government should act if it is really serious against oil smuggling!
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With less than a year to go before the 2019 elections, some Metro Manila politicians are building up their “war chests” with the help of both legal and illegal financiers. Favored contractors through their appointed “timon” or “captain ball” are offering hundreds of millions of pesos in campaign funds to winnable reelectionists or their winnable rivals.
Metro politics is actually big business and city mayors during their first term (three years) may earn hundreds of millions of pesos or even up to a billion pesos after three terms depending on their annual budget with just 10 percent “smiling” (goodwill) money. Where does the money come from? Examine every city government’s maintenance and operating budget for projects and you’ll find out.
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If a city were to allocate P1 billion for infrastructure projects, P1 billion for supplies and P1 billion for garbage collection, the mayor’s 10 percent commission would mean P300 million a year. In three years, that would be P900 million. And for a three-termer, it would come down to a whopping P2.7 billion.
Negotiations and money transactions are handled by the captain ball or timon, in cahoots with the city government’s bids and awards committee (BAC). It is assumed that BAC gets a 4-percent to 5-percent cut. Hence, the more projects, the more commissions.
What if the politician is greedier? Contractors in the metropolis have come up with monikers for mayors depending on their commissions: “Si Mayor 20 percent,” “Si Mayor matakaw (greedy) 25 percent,” “Si Mayorang malinis (clean mayor) 10 percent,” “Si Mayor advance 25 percent” and “Si Mayor 30 percent dahil nagmamadali at hindi na mananalo (in a hurry because he won’t win).”
Where do they hide their money? Actually, they have perfected the art of “hidden wealth.” Most of them keep their cash at home, some invest in paintings or in real estate. I know some who bought land in Australia (no extradition) even expensive memorial plots in the United States. Some regularly go to Shenzhen, Hong Kong, or even Switzerland, of course, on the advice of their “financial wizards.” Look at ex-Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak who hid $29 million in cash in his different houses. The same is probably true here.
Have you heard of any government agency doing lifestyle checks on Metro Manila mayors?
Malacañang, the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Department of Justice, Ombudsman?
Of course, many mayors are loved by their constituents. They share their fortune and keep on winning during elections. But for others who fail to improve the life of their constituents, it’s “pera-pera lang (all about the money)!”
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