MANILA (Updated 3:35 p.m.) -- President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III took interest in the proposal of San Miguel Corporation (SMC) to buy out the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor).

"It is a proposal. It is very interesting proposal," he said in an ambush interview Monday during the 43rd Asean Foundation Day at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

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He, however, stressed that the government should ensure the best price possible in exchange of the gambling firm.

"You have to ensure that if we intend to sell something, it is at the best price that we can get," he noted.

Earlier, SMC chairman Ramon Ang has announced a proposal to bid Pagcor to so-called Malaysia's "big boys" that could raise country's income with as much $10 billion and can "transform the country into a tiger economy."

President Aquino, meanwhile, said this has to be studied further by the government and the anomalies of Pagcor should be settled first.

In a reaction to the proposal, Representative Alfredo Benitez (third district, Negros Occidental), former CEO of a bingo company, is also in favor of privatizing Pagcor, but said the regulatory functions should be retained by the government.

"I believe this is the right approach but selling Pagcor - lock, stock and barrel is wrong. I am in agreement only as far as selling the operational assets of Pagcor but we must retain its regulatory function as well as its recurring revenues," said Benitez.

He said about 70 percent of the revenues by the gaming company should be retained and only 30 percent should be played around with.

The unsolicited offer of SMB is also "vague" as far as the terms are concerned, the lawmaker said.

According to Ang, Pagcor would be worth at least P450 billion, or $10 billion, based on its 2009 gross income of P29.78 billion and the minimum 15 times premium value.

But Benitez questioned how the $10 billion amount will be allocated by the government.

"Will it go to debt servicing, infrastructure or strengthening the delivery of basic services and more importantly - will it have the desired effect envisioned by Mr. Ang?" he asked. (Jill Beltran and Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)