During the Senate Finance Committee’s deliberation on the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon urged the Senate to probe the Philippine International Trading Center (PITC).

Drilon raised why the “little-known” procurement agency is keeping billions of pesos in taxpayers’ money through undelivered services and unreturned balances, alleging that it could have been doing such activity as far back as 2009.

The Senate’s interpellation on the proposed budget of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) revealed that as of October 2020, the PITC owes the AFP a total of P9.6 billion which has been “sleeping” in the agency since 2017.

Of the amount, P6.3 billion is the balance owed by PITC to the Philippine Army (PA), P1.9 billion to Philippine Navy (PN), P736 million to Philippine Air Force (PAF), 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. I am appalled that P9.6-billion, at least, is in PITC’s hands. The money is sleeping there,” Drilon lamented.

“Honestly, I do not know any more the extent of funds sleeping in the coffers of PITC. I think this requires closer scrutiny. 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.

The Commission on Audit (COA) previously disclosed PITC’s track record of owing various government agencies P9.176 billion in balances.

Based on the COA report, Drilon 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. The PITC also owes the Philippine National Police (PNP) P1.347 billion in undelivered equipment.

“This is bothersome. This agency is tasked to procure COVID-19 vaccines for Filipinos,” the veteran senator warned.

The Duterte administration has tasked the PITC to 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.

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