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Defensor says fund for infrastructures damaged by Typhoon Frank

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

PANAY Island will get a least P2 billion from the supplemental budget passed by Congress to rehabilitate areas devastated by three typhoons.

House Majority Floor Leader Arthur D. Defensor Sr. said part of the P12-billion supplemental budget will go to repair and replacement of infrastructures in Panay that were damaged by Typhoon Frank last year.

Defensor said he will push for the increase of the allocation for Panay from P2 billion to P3 billion.

“P2 billion is not enough to repair and replace infrastructures that were destroyed at the height of typhoon Frank. I will push for additional funds under the supplemental budget,” Defensor said.

Defensor said the National Disaster Coordinating Council will set the guidelines for the disbursement of the supplemental budget.

“But the local disaster coordinating councils will submit their respective reports and request for funding of priority projects,” he added.

Defensor earlier threatened to block the passage of the supplemental budget in the House of Representatives if Panay was excluded from the allocation.

The House has approved the Paglaum Fund for the post-Typhoon Frank rehabilitation efforts. But the revenue source of the fund – the Simplified Net Income Taxation Scheme – is still pending in the Senate.  

Both the House and Senate passed the supplemental budget by approving a joint resolution authorizing the executive department to spend P12 billion for immediate relief of the victims of Typhoons Frank, Ondoy and Pepeng.

The additional allocation will be drawn from the “unprogrammed funds” in the 2009 budget, particularly the proceeds of the national government share in the Malampaya natural gas extraction.

The government’s share from the Malampaya operations is around P14 billion.

The supplemental budget is on top of the P5 billion in donations and grants from foreign governments.

Government financial institutions – GSIS, SSS and Pag-IBIG – set aside a total of P11 billion in lending facility to their respective members.

Defensor: Panay rehab must be included in P10-B supplemental fund

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

HOUSE Majority Floor Leader Arthur D. Defensor Sr. said he will insist that Panay will be included in the resolution allowing President Gloria Arroyo to look for funds for the rehabilitation of areas devastated by the series of typhoons.

Defensor said he will push for the allocation of funds for the post-Typhoon Frank rehabilitation of Panay, particularly his home province of Iloilo.

The House of Representatives is planning to pass a P10-billion supplemental budget to be used for the rehabilitation of areas devastated by Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had declared the national government’s calamity fund has been depleted and there are no available funds for the P10-billion additional allocation.

The House is pushing for the approval of a joint resolution with the Senate to allow President Arroyo to realign unprogrammed government funds for the supplemental budget.

Defensor said he will block the joint resolution and P10-billion supplemental budget if Panay is not included in the measures.

“We have suffered for more than 1 year since Typhoon Frank hit (Panay) and many damaged bridges, roads and other infrastructure have yet to be replaced or repaired. If Panay is included, I will work hard to pass the resolution and supplemental budget in the House,” Defensor said.

Congress is working to pass the resolution and supplemental budget before it goes on recess October 16. There were also proposals to hold special sessions to fast track the passage of the said measures. 

Right after Typhoon Frank hit Panay, Congress passed the P8-billion supplemental budget, dubbed as Paglaum Fund, for the island’s rehabilitation. But the budget’s accompanying revenue measure, the Simplified Net Income Taxation System (SNITS), is still pending in the Senate reason why the national government has yet to release the funds.

The SNITS is seen to raise some P11 billion, most of which will be set aside for the Paglaum Fund.

So far, the national government has released P481 million for the dredging of the Iloilo and Aklan Rivers and repair of 13 destroyed bridges, roads and other government infrastructures in Panay.

Ilonggo leaders last July asked for another P900 million from Malacañang for Panay.

The DBM Secretary Rolando Andaya had said that out of the P2 billion allocated this year, the calamity fund is now down to P100 million.

The national government now plans to increase the budget of agencies that deal with calamities.

The DBM is also considering a proposal to use collections from the Road User’s Tax to fund relief and rehabilitation efforts.

The Philippines usually racks up P15 billion in calamity costs every year from its average of 20 tropical storms yearly.

Andaya said the government can easily replenish the calamity fund of the various agencies involved in disaster relief and management.

In 2007 and 2008, the government spent more than the money allocated for calamities. In 2008, for instance, it spent around P4 billion.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE city of Iloilo and neighboring municipalities should combine their efforts and resources to respond to natural calamities and disasters.

This is the approach adopted by the World Bank (WB)-assisted Disaster Risk Management (DRM) project of Iloilo City which kicked off last week.

Jorge Ebay, WB consultant and DRM coordinator, said Iloilo City should forge strategic partnership with its immediate neighbors in responding to disasters.

“If we want to pursue disaster risk reduction (DRR) objectives, we should focus not only in Iloilo City but on neighboring areas as well so that we can have an integrated approach” Mr. Ebay said.

Ebay said Iloilo City was caught off guard when typhoon Frank hit June 21, 2008 and flooded the city and its neighboring towns.

“Typhoon Frank made the city government realize its incapacity to manage the impact of big disasters,” Mr. Ebay added. 

The DRM project, dubbed “Technical Assistance to Support Planning for Recovery and Reconstruction of Iloilo City”, aims to identify major hazards and risks within Iloilo City; assess its capacity in responding to hazards and risk; build its capacity for DRM and enhance strategic partnerships with neighboring municipalities.

The project will also validate the damages and losses incurred by Iloilo City after Typhoon Frank and identify gaps in the recovery and reconstruction plan of the city. 

The WB’s Global Facilities for Disaster Risk Reduction (GFDRR) allotted US$250,000 assistance to Iloilo City’s DRM project.

Last week, representatives from Iloilo City and members of the Metro Iloilo Guimaras Economic Development Council (MIGEDC) underwent a seminar on hotspot assessment.

The MIGEDC members are the municipalities of Oton, Pavia, Sta. Barbara, San Miguel, Cabatuan, Maasin, Alimodian, Leganes, Leon, and province of Guimaras

“The city government and neighboring towns looked into Iloilo City’s human and built environment characteristics vis-à-vis the potential impact of climate change and natural hazards. This is to facilitate coordination and possible collaboration and resource sharing for projects that will jointly reduce vulnerability to natural disasters, such as the environmental protection of the watershed area,” the DRM project brief said. (With reports from PNA)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo 

THE Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has ordered the release of P481 million for the repair and rehabilitation of infrastructures in Panay that were damaged at the height typhoon Frank.

The funds were released through Special Allotment Release Order No. A-09-03564 issued last May 29, 2009.

The money will be taken from the calamity fund of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regular budget this year.

The national government set aside the fund upon request of Rep. Arthur Defensor Sr. (3rd district, Iloilo) and Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias.

The two officials asked President Gloria Arroyo to allocate money for the partial rehabilitation of Panay while Congress has yet to pass the accompanying revenue source of the P8-billion Paglaum Fund.

Banias said the funds will be used to repair nine bridges, national roads and dredging of Iloilo and Aklan Rivers.

“But this money is not enough, it’s not even 20% of the total amount needed to repair and rehabilitate all damaged structures in Panay,” Banias said.

The Regional Disaster Coordinating Council (RDCC) earlier passed a resolution asking Congress to approve the revenue measure that will become the source of the Paglaum Fund.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE upcoming election period might hamper the rehabilitation of Panay after the destruction caused by typhoon Frank on various sectors last year.

This was the concern raised by local officials as the release of the P8-billion Paglaum Fund drags for of lack of revenue sources.

Presidential Assistant Raul Banias said the election period might overtake the release of the fund, thus delaying further the repair and rehabilitation of damaged infrastructure in Western Visayas.

“We just hope that it will not be overtaken by the political season so we can implement the needed rehabilitation and repair of critical infrastructure,” Banias said.

The Omnibus Election Code bans the release, disbursement or expenditure of public funds for public works 45 days before any regular election.

Public works are commonly referred to infrastructure projects consists of roads, bridges, railways, airports, seaports, communication facilities, irrigation, flood control, water supply and sewerage, solid waste management, energy and power systems and school buildings.

The public works ban for the 2010 elections starts March 26, 2010 and ends on election day, May 10, 2010.

Coupled with this ban on public expenditures is another limitation on the actual construction of public works and availment of any device undertaking future delivery of money or goods chargeable against public funds. The ban similarly starts 45 days before any regular election.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesperson James Jimenez said they can exempt certain public works from the ban for humanitarian reasons. Critical infrastructure projects can also be exempted from the ban, Jimenez added. 

While the House of Representatives and the Senate had approved the proposed the supplemental budget for the Paglaum Fund, it has yet to be released because its accompanying revenue source remains pending in Congress.

The main source of the Paglaum Fund is the Simplified Net Income Tax Scheme (Snits) which is expected to rake in an estimated P12 billion.

The Snits is still pending in the Senate committee on ways and means chaired by Senator Panfilo Lacson. The committee failed to deliberate on the tax measure before Congress adjourned this month.

Banias said he got the commitment of the House and Senate that both chambers will fast track the passage of the Snits bill.

Even if the Snits bill is passed this year, revenues from the tax measure will be realized next year yet.

“We have assurance from the Department of Budget and Management that they can get the funds from other sources,” Banias said.

President Gloria Arroyo earlier released P487 million for the initial rehabilitation and repair of damaged infrastructures in Panay.

Meanwhile, the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council (RDCC) passed a resolution Monday urging the Senate to fast track the approval and release of the Paglaum Fund.

The RDCC passed the resolution during the commemoration of typhoon Frank’s havoc in the region last year.

 “The passage of the bill is urgently needed to completely restore, particularly in Panay Island – the food basket of the region,” said PNP Regional Director and RDCC Chair Isagani Cuevas.

Typhoon Frank affected 2,674 barangays and 360,516 families. A total of 827 families were left homeless. It also killed 274 people and injured 1,523 others while 174 people remain missing.

The agriculture sector was also heavily damaged: P1.279 billion in crops; P3.746 billion in fisheries; and P31 million inn livestock.

Billions worth of infrastructures were damaged and destroyed: P9.06 million worth of health and government facilities; P2.187 billion of roads and bridges; and P221 million worth of school buildings.

SAILOR BACK HOME   Petty Officer Grace Geroche of USS Ronald Reagan paints a classroom at the Pavia National High School. An alumna of the school, Geroche was one of the 18 sailors who visited Sunday to take part in the renovation program to commemorate the first anniversary of typhoon Frank. (Photo by Tara Yap)

SAILOR BACK HOME Petty Officer Grace Geroche of USS Ronald Reagan paints a classroom at the Pavia National High School. An alumna of the school, Geroche was one of the 18 sailors who visited Sunday to take part in the renovation program to commemorate the first anniversary of typhoon Frank. (Photo by Tara Yap)

By Tara Yap

 

TO mark its relief efforts in last year’s typhoon Frank, a US naval carrier revisited Panay over the weekend.

Eighteen sailors of the USS Ronald Reagan visited Pavia, the town hit hardest by flood waters last year.

The sailors, 8 of whom are of Filipino descent, stayed for approximately five hours at Pavia National High School where they helped members of the Philippine Navy paint a classroom and cement a walkway near the gym.

“I’m happy to be back,” said 23-year-old petty officer Grace Geroche, who is an alumna of the town high school.

“It’s nice to help out.  It’s just a way to give back to the community where I grew up,” added Geroche.

Geroche was born in the US, but spent her growing up years in Pavia . 

She went back to the US and joined the US Navy after graduating college at Iloilo Doctor’s College (IDC) last 2007.

A crowd of residents welcomed the Americans at the school with Mayor Arcadio Gorriceta warmly recalling the assistance of US troops and other private sectors in the aftermath of the typhoon.

In Iloilo alone, 135 people died and over 170,000 people were displaced after typhoon Frank battered Iloilo and the rest of Panay.

The USS Ronald Reagan delivered more than 500 pounds of food, water and medicine last year to typhoon victims in Panay despite threats made by local communist guerrillas to attack them.

By Tara Yap

 

COMMEMORATING the tragic effects of typhoon Frank has taken a festive twist.

Barangay captains of Jaro district in Iloilo City, which was hit hardest by the flashflood brought about by typhoon Frank June 21, 2008, will mount a fiesta to show that they have overcome the tragedy.

Jonas Bellosillo, president of the Association of Barangay Captains (ABC)-Jaro chapter, said the fiesta will celebrate the fighting spirit of the Ilonggos amid the damage and deaths caused by typhoon Frank.

Bellosillo told The Daily Guardian that nightly food festival and live bands in Jaro Plaza started Thursday until this Sunday night.

The event is one of the sidelights of the week-long commemoration spearheaded by the Iloilo City government in partnership with San Miguel Corp (SMC).

Bellosillo invite residents of Jaro and the rest of Iloilo City to come to Jaro Plaza and celebrate the resilience of the Ilonggos in the aftermath of typhoon Frank.

The typhoon Frank experience also brought to fore the importance of being prepared for natural and manmade calamities.

ABC Jaro and the City Crisis Management Office will mount a rescue drill in Jaro River Saturday morning and a commemorative program at the plaza Sunday.

The drill will feature the skills and equipment of the city in responding to calamities, especially flood.

Bellosillo said Bayani Fernando, Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chair, is expected to arrive June 22.

Fernando will turnover donations of essential rescue gears including searchlights, bolt cutter, ax, and a stretcher to carry an injured person.

The MMDA helped clear and rehabilitate Iloilo City after typhoon Frank by sending a cleanup team. 

Frank destroyed P500-million worth of crops and P1.7-billion worth of properties in Iloilo.

In Iloilo City and province, 135 were reported killed while scores missing.

The flood engulfed around 80% of Iloilo City, affecting 48,836 families or 244,090 persons. The worst hit district was Jaro, where the flood waters were reported to have reached a high of 2 meters, submerging almost the entire district.

In Iloilo Province, among the most affected towns include: Oton, Miagao, Leganes, Pavia, Zarraga, Leon, Janiuay, Leon, Pototan, Dumangas, Barotac Nuevo, Ajuy, and Carles.

The Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council said at least 91,183 families or 177,700 persons were affected by the typhoon.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council said typhoon Frank’s damage to roads and bridges accounts for P2.3 billion, most of them in Aklan, Iloilo and Capiz.

Damage to school buildings was at P455 million mostly in the Panay region, the Calabarzon Region, the Mimaropa region and the National Capital Region.

Damage to other facilities, including hospitals, was estimated to reach P2.3 billion.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

NO politician will administer the P8-billion Paglaum Fund, according to House Majority Floor Leader Arthur Defensor Sr.

 

Defensor (3rd district, Iloilo) said a multi-agency commission will handle the disbursement of the fund which will be used to rehabilitate areas in Western Visayas devastated by typhoon Frank last year.

 

The Region 6 Rehabilitation and Development Commission will be headed by Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro being the National Disaster Coordinating Council chair, based on House Bill No. 5604.

 

HB 5604 is the proposed supplemental budget for the Paglaum Fund. It was recently approved by the House of Representatives and is now pending in the Senate.

 

The commission members are: Regional Development Council chair; Cabinet Officer for regional development (CORD); Secretary of Agriculture; Secretary of Budget and Management; Secretary of Social Welfare and Development; Secretary of Education; Secretary of Health; Secretary of Public Works and Highways; National Electrification Administration administrator; National Housing Authority general manager; and Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas.

 

The CORD for Western Visayas is Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr.

 

Rep. Niel “Jun-Jun” Tupas Jr. (5th district, Iloilo) earlier said Gonzalez should not become a member of the commission. He also fears that his district will not partake from rehabilitation fund.

 

The Tupases accused Gonzalez as the brains behind the attempt to dismiss Governor Niel Tupas Sr. from office in 2007 for alleged graft.

 

The commission shall be organized within 30 days after the supplemental budget for the Paglaum Fund is enacted and shall exist for 2 years after its organization.

 

Defensor said the fund will be released in batches through government agencies tasked to implement rehabilitation and relief projects.

 

“Politicians who lobby with Congress to handle the funds and implement projects in their constituencies should stop because the fund will only be coursed through the commission,” he added.

 

The Senate has passed in second reading its own version of the Paglaum Fund bill. The Senate bill is co-authored by Senators Edgardo Angara, Senate committee on finance chair; and Juan Miguel Zubiri, Senate majority floor leader.

 

“In a matter of two weeks, the Paglaum Fund bill will get Senate approval in two weeks time. The House and Senate versions of the bill are identical. But if there are differences in the two versions, such can be ironed out in the bicameral conference committee,” Defensor said.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Senate approved Monday a resolution appropriating P8 billion for the Paglaum Fund which will be used to rehabilitate areas of Panay ravaged by Typhoon Frank last year.

 

Dr. Raul Banias, presidential adviser for Western Visayas, said Senator Edgardo Angara, Senate committee on finance chair, sponsored a bill appropriating P8 billion for the Paglaum Fund.

 

“Senator Angara sponsored and adopted House Bill No. 5604 which is sets aside a supplemental budget for the Paglaum Fund. He presented the bill in his sponsorship speech in the Senate. Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri co-sponsored the bill. The Senate unanimously approved the measure,” Banias told The Daily Guardian.

 

Banias said they expect the Senate to pass the Paglaum Fund bill after two or three sessions after it mustered the senators’ full support.

 

As regards the Simplified Net Income Taxation Scheme (Snits), which is the accompanying revenue measure of the Paglaum Fund, Banias said they are confident that the Senate will approve the tax measure.

 

“The support shown by the Senate for the Paglaum Fund gave us confidence that the Snits bill will also be passed smoothly. President Gloria Arroyo has already certified the Paglaum Bill as urgent so we expect its immediate passage,” Banias added.

 

The Snits Bill (House Bill No. 5257) filed by Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier limits the expenses that may be deducted from gross revenues earned by professionals and individuals running their own businesses to arrive at their taxable income.

 

The bill is in response to complaints that salaried individuals, whose taxes are automatically withheld by employers from their salaries, shoulder a much bigger share of the government’s income tax collection from individuals. 

 

Earlier reports said the Senate might not pass the Snits Bill because the Department of Finance doubts if the measure will increase tax collections.

 

The Snits is expected to raise some P12 billion, most of which will be allocated to the Paglaum Fund.

 

President Gloria Arroyo earlier ordered the release of some P481 million for “critical” rehabilitation projects in Panay.

 

The P481 million will be used for the replacement of the Tigum Bridge in Cabatuan, Iloilo (P160 million); replacement of the Tubang Bridge in Maasin, Iloilo (P10 million); replacement of the Daja Bridge in Maasin, Iloilo (P10 million); replacement of the substructure of B. Aquino Bridge in Leon, Iloilo (P40 million); and replacement of the substructure of Camanggahan Bridge in Guimbal, Iloilo (P60 million).

 

Other rehabilitation projects are the dredging of Aklan River (P100 million) and the Dungon Creek in Iloilo City (P50 million), Pototan Road Slip in Pototan, Iloilo (P30 million) and the Misi-Tampucao Bridge in Lambunao, Iloilo (P21 million).

 

The Department of Public Works and Highways will begin the bidding process of the projects next month while actual works are expected to commence June 2009.

Banias fears repeat of historic floods if Paglaum Fund is doomed

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ANOTHER massive flooding might devastate the city and province of Iloilo if critical infrastructure projects under the still unfunded P8-billion Paglaum Fund are not realized.

 

This was the grim scenario painted by Dr. Raul Banias, presidential assistant for Western Visayas, during the Western Visayas Regional Planning Summit at Iloilo Grand Hotel Thursday morning.

 

“It would be a disaster if the Paglaum Fund is not released before the summer season ends because critical works such as repair and replacement of bridges damaged by typhoon Frank, river and flood control projects and dredging of heavily silted rivers and creeks will be stalled. These projects are important to prevent another flash flood brought about by typhoons,” Banias said.

 

Banias said he and other Ilonggo leaders have been asking Malacañang to release at least P460million for the repair of vital bridges and dredging of major bodies of water in Panay.

 

The money, which will be released through the Department of Public Works and Highways, will be used to repair the bridges in Cabatuan and Leon, Iloilo and dredging of the rivers in Libacao, Kalibo and Iloilo City.  

 

Banias said he observed that some rivers in Panay are heavily silted which could cause flashfloods in surrounding communities.

 

“In Libacao, Aklan, we cannot see the 3-meter boulders in the rivers because these are already covered by silt. The same is true in Aklan River in Kalibo and the Iloilo River in the city and its creeks. If we don’t dredge these rivers before the rainy season, we might experience the same thing when typhoon Frank hit June last year. Half of the rain that fell during Frank’s height is enough to trigger another massive flooding,” he added.

 

The release of the Paglaum Fund, which is intended to rehabilitate areas of Panay devastated by typhoon Frank, hit a snag with the delay in the passage of the Simplified Income Taxation Scheme (Snits) bill in the Senate.

 

The bill is pending with the committee on ways and means chaired by Senator Panfilo Lacson.

 

Snits bill, which is the accompanying revenue measure of the Paglaum Fund, limits the expenses that may be deducted from gross revenues earned by professionals and individuals running their own businesses to arrive at their taxable income.

 

Some P9billion is expected to be raised from the Snits bill which will fund the Panay rehabilitation efforts, according to Banias.

 

If Snits is approved next month, it would be too late as the payment of individual income tax is set April 15. If no other sources of funds are found, the Paglaum Fund will be released next year.

 

Banias said they continue to coordinate with Malacañang to look for other funding sources to start the critical projects.

 

Undersecretary Joaquin Lagonera of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office called Banias the other day to discuss the possible release of only P460million.

 

Iloilo Jerry Treñas said they asked Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Lagonera to ask President Gloria Arroyo to look for other sources.

 

Treñas said he is worried with the damaged bridges and heavily silted bodies of water which can cause another flooding.

 

“I need not go far. I will just look at the Dungon Creek behind our house and I can see that it is heavily silted. We are worried that if there are heavy rains again, the flood will rise once more,” Treñas said.

 

Treñas said he is the least concerned about the political backlash of the non-release of the Paglaum Fund “because I am graduating already.”

 

“We are more concerned about the effects of the flood on the people and properties. Among the local leaders in Panay, I was most affected because my house was inundated, my children stayed on the roof and my cars were flooded,” Treñas said.

More taxes for Panay fund is wrong

Senator Chiz Escudero: More taxes for Panay fund is wrong

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

USING the rehabilitation of Panay Island in the aftermath of typhoon Frank to raise taxes is wrong, according to Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero.

 

Escudero, chair of the Senate committee on ways and means, said the P8-billion Panay rehabilitation fund should not become a reason to burden the public with additional taxes.

 

The rehab fund was originally pegged at P15 billion but it was slashed down to P8 billion because of the ongoing war in Mindanao and the world financial crisis.

 

Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier, House committee on ways and means chair, said he is planning to increase taxes on professionals in order to obtain the needed funds for Panay’s rehabilitation.

 

A bulk of the rehabilitation fund will go to repairs and construction of damaged infrastructure and livelihood projects.    

 

“If President Gloria Arroyo wants to give you P15 billion, she can give you P15 billion, there is no need to legislate a new tax measure. Under Presidential Decree 1177, she has that power. So, she cannot say that we should look for sources,” Escudero said.

 

Escudero said he fears that the Panay rehabilitation fund might end up like the reformed Value Added Tax “which we did not feel.”

 

“The windfall from VAT is P17 billion this year alone. If she wants to give you the fund, she can. I will not allow increases in tax just to get funding for this matter. I’m not saying that we will deprive Panay. I’m really against tax raises because this government has enough funds. They should not point to anybody else in looking for funds for Panay,” he added.

 

The neophyte senator also cited the case of Luzon and Bicol when it was hit by typhoon in 2007 where the government immediately set aside rehabilitation funds without passing new tax measures.

 

“Why is it that in Visayas there is a condition that the fund will only be provided if there is a new tax measure? There should be equal treatment, if they can do it in Luzon, they should also do it in Visayas and Mindanao,” Escudero said.

 

He added: “It is the government’s responsibility to help Panay. This is caused by the national government’s neglect of Visayas and Mindanao. Its attention is always on Luzon and Metro Manila. It is time to bring back the funds to Visayas and Mindanao so you will feel that the national government is concerned for you.”

 

When asked if what could be the Arroyo administration’s motive in the new tax measure, Escudero said “your guess is as good as mine.”

 

“It is very clear that it (new tax measure) is wrong. Sa hirap ng buhay ngayon, dadagdagan pa ang buwis.”  

Smear campaign vs Gorriceta

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Internet is teeming with “black propaganda” against Mayor Arcadio Gorriceta of Pavia, Iloilo via two weblogs or popularly known as “blogs.”

 

One blog, http://steveonthecross.blogspot.com/, detailed the alleged scandal within the upper echelon of Panay Sugar Planters Federation (PanayFed) “when it was discovered that nearly P1 million intended as downpayment for the importation of farm tractors was missing from the coffers of the organization.”

 

The PanayFed story was posted September 29 under the heading “The truth about Cadio.”

 

The blog said a member of the PanayFed board of directors “had withdrawn the money, obviously for his personal use, when everybody else in the organization that it had been spent to help sugar planters improve their sugar production.”

 

The board of directors of the Panay Fed was aghast. Not only were its struggling members deprived of the help in buying farm tractors, but the amount was used by one of its leaders for personal purposes. This triggered a bitter and acrimonious board room battle. But there was no way this director who dipped his fingers into the cookie jar could deny the mischief. There were handwritten receipts. Ultimately, he agreed to return the money. That director who misused the federation’s funds was a man named Arcadio Gorriceta,” the blog said.

 

The steveonthecross blog also accused Gorriceta of mounting the “massive theft” of soil excavated from the Iloilo Flood Control Project which stretches from portions of Pavia to Iloilo City.

 

“…The ‘super-mayor’ saw an opportunity to enrich himself at the expense of the ordinary taxpayer. How? He pressured the project management office and the contractor, Hanjin, to haul the excavated soil to wide areas of land owned by the Gorriceta family in Pavia, Iloilo. By filling the properties with the excavated soil, super mayor Gorriceta raised the elevation of their lands by about two feet above the road level. This is all for free,” the blog said.

 

The elevation of the Gorriceta property, the blog said, more than tripled its value and “Gorriceta can market the family’s properties at a premium price.”

 

 

WHERE WAS CADIO?

 

An October 7 post in the blog http://diskartidor.wordpress.com/ posed this question: Where was Cadio when Frank hit Pavia?

 

The diskartidor blog said Gorriceta did not get wet when Typhoon Frank lashed and inundated Pavia last June 21.

 

“That’s because he was safely ensconced at the airconditioned restaurant of the Days Hotel, enjoying the buffet breakfast and sipping coffee with his friends. There wasn’t a single moment when Cadio Gorriceta really experienced the pain and suffering that his constituents went through. He was like a commander-in-chief situated in a concrete bunker while his people were screaming in fear and clutching at tree branches just to stay alive,” the blog said.

 

The blog added: “By noon, Cadio Gorriceta felt no urgent reason to hie off to Pavia and assess the damage. He never showed concern about the fate of his people by trying to see what else could be done to get them out of harm’s way. These tasks he left to the hands of his lieutenants.”

 

Gorriceta even ate at a restaurant at the Atrium mall and “visited his brother in Molo to console the latter for the millions of pesos in losses in his piggery project.”

 

 

BLACK PROPAGANDA

 

In a telephone interview, Gorriceta said he already expected the negative blogs and other forms of black propaganda to surface against him.

 

Gorriceta said the smear campaign is a natural consequence of his dakal-dakal exposé involving the concreting of the Pagsanga-an-Tigum-Cabugao Norte road in Pavia.

 

The mayor had accused Rep. Judy Syjuco, wife of Tesda director-geneal Augusto Syjuco, of trying to hijack the project.

 

Apparently, the mayor accused the Syjucos as the ones behind the propaganda.

 

“This is what we get when we expose anomalies and evildoings. But these does not affect because I have nothing to hide,” Gorriceta said.

 

As regards the P1-million PanayFed fund, Gorriceta denied any anomaly in the issue but he referred this writer to PanayFed officials led by Francis Treñas to shed light on the issue.

 

“There was no anomaly with the PanayFed fund. But it would be better to ask the officials of PanayFed as it would be self-serving on my part if I answer the accusations in the blog. The officials of PanayFed would be able to shed light on this,” Gorriceta said.

 

Gorriceta also denied “stealing” the excavated soil from the flood control project to jack the value of his properties.

 

Sometime in 2001-2002, Gorriceta said that he offered their family property to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) as disposal areas for unsuitable/excavated material from the project.

 

His proposal was approved by Engr. Jerome Borjal of the DPWH’s Project Management Office-Major Flood Control Projects based at Brgy. Buhang, Jaro, Iloilo City.

 

“I was entitled to 200,000 cubic meters of excavated material based on the DPWH approval. This materialized before I became mayor of Pavia, so how can I pressure anyone? Before, nobody wanted these excavated materials because these are ordinary bon-bon. Now they look like gold,” Gorriceta said.

 

While he admitted that he was not physically in Pavia when Typhoon Frank hit their town, Gorriceta said he coordinated all rescue efforts in their town.

 

“I burned the lines to seek help from government agencies and private persons. Everybody heard me plea for help over radio stations when floodwaters were rising in out town. Yes I was not there but I did all I could do to help my town,” he said.

 

The mayor also boasted their town’s fast recovery from the flood without much help from the national government.

 

“On our own efforts and through the help of the private sector, our town recovered in just two months,” Gorriceta said.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

WHERE will the national government get P10 billion for the rehabilitation of Panay Island in the aftermath of typhoon Frank?

 

House Majority Floor Leader Arthur Defensor Sr. (Iloilo, 3rd district) said they have been discussing the possible source of the Paglaum Fund with Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier, House committee on ways and means chair.

 

The Paglaum Fund is meant to rehabilitate Panay by rebuilding infrastructures damaged by typhoon Frank, creating livelihood opportunities in affected communities and environmental projects to prevent flashfloods.

 

Defensor said there have been concerns on where to get the fund so that rehabilitation efforts can proceed.

 

“Rep. Javier said they can get the funds from various sources and we are working on it. The amount of P10 billion is already fixed. We only have to look for sources,” he said.

 

The Paglaum Fund, which is embodied in House Bill 4824, was originally pegged at P15 billion to cover damaged infrastructures and other rehabilitation efforts from local governments and national line agencies.

 

But the Department of Budget and Management told Defensor that only P9-10 billion is available for Panay’s rehabilitation because of the ongoing Mindanao conflict.

 

Defensor had said that the war with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front is taking its toll on the national coffers and affected the allocation for Panay.

 

The budget reduction will result in abandoning some rehabilitation project proposals and focus on damaged infrastructure and livelihood.

 

Defensor said they have required government agencies and affected local governments to review and revise their project proposals.

 

The foremost priority in the rehabilitation, he said, is the repair of major roads and bridges and the livelihood of affected communities.

 

Defensor said they expect to pass HB 4824 by end of this year. 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

MORE than P500 million has been set aside for the rehabilitation of Panay Island in the aftermath of the destructive flood brought about by typhoon Frank more than two months ago.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr., chair of Task Force Panay, said a total of P540 million has been allocated for the island but more money is needed.

President Gloria Arroyo designated Gonzalez as TF Panay chair in his capacity as the Cabinet officer for regional development (CORD). Presidential assistant for Panay and Guimaras Raul Banias, who once chaired the task force, acts as operations officer of TF Panay.

Aside from the P540-million fund, Gonzalez said the national government, through various agencies, has released money for post-typhoon Frank relief and recovery operations.

Gonzalez said the P540-million fund will be released through agencies such as the Departments of Agriculture and Public Works and Highways.

Some P10 billion is needed to fully rehabilitate typhoon-ravaged areas in Panay, according to estimates by the national government.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council said the cost of devastation wrought by the typhoon in Region 6 reached P11.546 billion as of July 7. The agriculture sector suffered P7.57 billion in damages while some P3.96 billion worth of infrastructure were destroyed.

Aklan and Iloilo accounted for the most damage to agricultural products at over P5 billion. Damages to roads and bridges raced over P2 billion.

Gonzalez said Congress has formed a technical working group which will study additional rehabilitation fund for Panay.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE municipal mayor of Pavia is riling against Rep. Judy Syjuco (2nd district, Iloilo) for the alleged ghost multimillion road project in his town.

The P28-million project covers the 3.4-kilometer Pagsanga-an – Tigum – Cabugao Norte provincial road in Pavia which was heavily damaged during the flashflood brought about by typhoon Frank.

In a letter dated July 17, Pavia Mayor Arcadio Gorriceta requested P28 million from Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias for the repair and asphalting of the said road.

Banias then endorsed Gorriceta’s letter to Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional director Rolando Asis, who then forwarded the same to DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane.

Asis recommended to the DPWH central office the inclusion of the Pavia project in the list of projects to be funded.

On August 27, Gorriceta wrote Asis requesting the implementation of the P28-million project through a memorandum of agreement offering to construct a concrete road instead of an asphalt road. The road will be 6.10 meters wide and 9 inches thick.

The mayor also informed Banias of his offer to construct a concrete road following DPWH specifications.

Gorriceta was later informed that the P28 million for the project will be released in three tranches: P10 million for the first installment, P10 million for the second release and P8 million for the last tranche.

On September 4, DPWH assistant regional director Joby Cordon informed Gorriceta that the initial P10.5 million for the project was released to the DPWH 4th Engineering District based in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo upon request of Syjuco.

The following day, Arcadio was surprised when district engineer George Suy informed him that the project was awarded to Patrila Construction Co. through negotiated contract.

Suy said the contractor has started delivering boulders and grading of the road. But upon actual inspection of the project site, Patrila has not delivered any materials and has not done any grading work.

According to Suy, the scope of work is “repair and restoration” by filling of dakal-dakal (sand and gravel), not asphalting nor concreting because they will just “restore” the gravel road to its original form.

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