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DOT urged to review Nayong Pilipino projects amid looming fund depletion

Senator Nancy Binay on Thursday urged the Department of Tourism to review the projects of Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) after the Commission on Audit (COA) reported that its funding will be fully depleted in five or six years.

Binay, Senate tourism committee chairperson, said the DOT should review the P1.5 billion tourism cultural theme park which was already approved by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).

She said this is the very first Public-Private Partnership model for a cultural theme park which was in line with NPF’s mandate to showcase Filipino culture and explore alternate sources of income.

“Given their fiscal situation now, I would side with COA's opinion that Nayong Pilipino needs to come up with alternative revenue sources for its operations, kasi kung walang konkretong plano o proyekto para magkaroon ng income, at walang movement para maging sustainable ang operations ng NPF, paniguradong masisimot kung anumang pondo ang meron sila,” Binay said in a Viber message to GMA News Online.

“Again, DOT can also look into NPF's financial and sales projections in the next 5-10 years. Tingnan din ng DOT ang ibang activities that crossline the department's programs, o 'yung mga corporate function that somehow duplicate what other agencies are already doing,” she added.

But Binay said the NPF is supposed to be a self-sustaining government-owned and -controlled corporation (GOCC) with the income coming from several pieces of prime assets that they own and lease out which includes the 15-hectare property that they own in Aseana.

“It's really up to them how they can maximize their property to be of highest and best use. The NPF needs to think out-of-the-box to generate a decent income—but the first step is not getting out-of-the-box. The most important first step for NPF is to ‘Think,’” she added.

While the government can infuse money to NPF through the annual budget, Senator Francis Escudero said the DOT and the Governance Commission for GOCCs must study the COA report and see how it can improve its current situation.

For Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, the NPF should be privatized as he believed that the private sector is “better equipped” to manage commercial establishments.

The chairman of the Senate committee on basic education said NPF should still be maintained as it provides important educational experience for the students.

Senator Grace Poe said the "alarming" COA findings should trigger a review of the mandate and the relevance of the GOCC, as "it can be seen as a mere holding company of idle government assets that could be put to better use."

The chairperson of the Senate public services committee said the old NPF land near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, if not yet absorbed by the current design, can add elbow room for airplane movement.

Meanwhile, Poe said the property in Clark, Pampanga, can also be absorbed by the Clark International Airport to increase its capacity and become a potential alternate hub. 

Apart from these properties, Poe said the management of the Rizal Park Orchidarium can be given back to the National Parks Development Committee under the DOT.

The "controversial idle space" in Entertainment City in Parañaque can also be an urban green space, Poe suggested, adding that the NPF Board's proposal to turn it into a park with a 30 percent built space and 70 percent green space design scheme is a "prudent" use of the space.

However, she said this could be done better and faster by the Department of Public Works and Highways.

"All of these proposals can be done by primary Departments that are much more capacitated to undertake big projects. Rightsizing can be done to cut losses, since it is almost certain that the Board would be penniless by 2027 due to poor fiscal management and [the] absence of revenue-generating projects," Poe told GMA News Online.

Based on COA’s 2022 Annual Audit Report on NPF, the foundation's fund balance is only at P646.928 million as of the end of 2022.

The balance, COA said, is largely funded by trust account/investment funds (TA/IF) managed by Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines.

The amount invested in the TA/IF is from the advance rentals and other fees paid by the Resorts World Bayshore City, Inc., totaling P1.232 billion.

COA also noted that NPF did not introduce income-generating activities.

In response to the audit findings, NPF said it has been very cautious in spending and disbursements.

NPF said that to minimize the operational costs, the management explored and maximized partnerships in each of its activities and projects with the DOT and other relevant agencies without compromising the quality of service.—AOL/VBL, GMA Integrated News