PASAY CITY -- Clark Development Corporation (CDC) President Benigno Ricafort appeared before the Senate Finance Committee on Thursday to explain the real nature of his alleged salary of P14.5 million.

Ricafort told Senators Franklin Drilon, Edgardo Angara, Juan Ponce Enrile that his salary is in fact P2.078 million a year and not P14.5 million, stressing the bulk amount of funds lumped under his name under the 1992 Commission on Audit Form is in fact part of the agency discretionary funds.

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“These funds I have not personally received as part of my actual salary as these are funds only assigned to my custody,” Ricafort said, telling the senators that these are used for programs, peace and order and for other incidental expenses inside the Freeport.

Ricafort said such discretionary funds are necessary for CDC to protect, guard and maintain investments inside the Freeport which is also surrounded by communities from at least four municipalities.

“There is a need to protect investments and facilities inside Clark Freeport. Also we incur additional expenses when we are visited by heads of state or VIPs and for such we need to hire extra manpower for their protection. This expenses we could not predict as we do not know when VIPs would suddenly come to Clark,” Ricafort said.

Ricafort said CDC is in fact “making money” and is not a losing company. He said that CDC hosts a good number of local and foreign investors and millions in investment. Ricafort added that the FDI Magazine, published by the prestigious London-based The Financial Times Business Group, in fact has picked Clark Freeport as the world’s “most cost effective” among some 700 economic zones it considered worldwide.

“CDC is making money and we have been making headstrong in achieving more for Clark Freeport,” Ricafort said.

Meanwhile, Drilon pointed out that such funds have been put under the name of Ricafort, as in the case of other executives from government owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) because it is the executive who allows and authorizes the use of such funds by mere certification.

“I am asking the Commission on Audit to submit an audit report on the use of such funds to be submitted to the Senate as soon as possible,” Drilon said. Of more than 150 GOCCs, 26 were exempted from the Salary Standardization Law.

The Senate finance committee will resume its hearing next week. (Ian Ocampo Flora)