PRESIDENT Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III on Monday expressed willingness to sell Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) following bidding proposal by San Miguel Corporation Vice Chairman Ramon Ang.

“It is a very interesting proposal,” Aquino said in an ambush interview Monday during the 43rd ASEAN Foundation Day at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

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The President referred to the proposal of Ang for the government to sell Pagcor to Malaysian billionaires that would give the country an instant $10 billion amid financial problems.

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

He meanwhile said this has to be studied further by the government and the anomalies of Pagcor, under its former head Efraim Genuino, should be settled first before selling it out.

Pagcor had several controversies during the time of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo including Genuino’s extended appointment and the alleged overpriced food purchase of Pagcor to feed policemen during rallies.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda in a press briefing said that Pagcor’s current chairman Cristino "Bong" Naguiat Jr. has discovered even more irregularities and landmines in the agency.

He said the government would want to clean up Pagcor first to be able to sell it at its most worthy price.

The Palace is yet received formal proposal from Ang who said that he would bid Pagcor in his personal capacity and not as official of San Miguel.

“It will be good for the nation when you get $10 billion. That has consequences in the exports sector and the OFW. But what we are saying they are all under study,” said Lacierda.

He added that there is no timeline for privatizing Pagcor, saying they have to consider whether the proposed price is a fair evaluation of the value of the gambling firm.

“There is due diligence going on first of all to determine whether the government has disadvantage on that contracts,” he said.

In favor

Representative Alfredo Benitez (third district, Negros Occidental), the former CEO of a bingo company, favored privatizing the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) but noted that 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.

The unsolicited offer of San Miguel Corporation vice chair Ramon Ang is also "vague" as far as the terms are concerned, added the lawmaker.

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.

In his first State of the Nation Address, President Aquino disclosed plans of public-private partnerships to upgrade government services and at the same time, increase revenues.

Meanwhile, Representative Roilo Golez (second district, Paranaque City) said that the proposal of Ang could be the mother of all mega deals which would prop up the government's economic development program.

It would also remove the government from direct gambling operation and eliminate unsavory implications of government being in the gambling business, said Golez. (Jill Beltran/Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)