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P800-M Guimaras fund on hold due to May polls

March 7, 2007

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Inquirer, 2007-03-06

ILOILO CITY, Philippines – The elections are delaying the release of P800 million in funds earmarked for the rehabilitation of communities that had been devastated by the Petron oil spill in Guimaras, a Palace official said.

According to Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr., the funds are available but projects and programs are being scrutinized to make sure these are directly related to the oil spill.

“With elections coming, we are very careful,” said Andaya.

Guimaras officials earlier complained of the delay in the release of the fund which they blamed for the non-implementation of rehabilitation and livelihood projects more than six months after the MT Solar I, which was carrying over two million liters of Petron bunker fuel, sank off Guimaras in August last year.

The oil spill damaged the marine resources and destroyed the livelihood of thousands of residents in the central Philippine province of Guimaras.

The fund, which formed part of the P2 billion supplemental fund approved by Congress last year, will be released to different agencies that will carry out the rehabilitation and livelihood projects.

The money will also be used for research and monitoring of the impact of the oil spill.

Andaya said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) had released a total of P199 million as of last week.

Last Friday, the DBM released P81 million for the Department of Agriculture (P50 million), Department of Science and Technology (P26 million) and Office of Marine Affairs under the Department of Foreign Affairs (P5 million).

Last year, the DBM released P118 million – P50 million for the University of the Philippines in the Visayas, P40 million for the local government units and P28 million for the Department of Social Welfare and Development, the Department of National Defense and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Andaya said the budget department was closely scrutinizing the release of the funds to avoid the misuse of funds during the election period.

“We want to know where it is going and it must follow the law on spending during elections. It cannot be spent for projects that have no connection to the oil spill,” he said.

The 45-day ban on public spending, which covers March 30 until May 14, prohibits the release of funds for the implementation of public works projects.

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