Thursday, 4 November 2010

P2.2-billion fund for Pampanga projects not 'pork' — Palace

Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — The P2.2 billion in infrastructure funds for Central Luzon is not the pork barrel of Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo but actually involves two foreign-assisted projects on lahar and flood containment and development highway in specific areas, Malacañang said on Wednesday.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the infrastructure projects funded from loans secured by the former leader was a “necessity” to clean up the river systems of Pampanga and curb potential hazards to the communities surrounding the Mt. Pinatubo.

Of the P2.2 billion allocated in the 2011 budget, the P1.61 billion will be used for the flood control projects in Porac-Gumain River and Pasac Delta Area as part of the Mt. Pinatubo Hazard Urgent Mitigation Project Phase II. The project will be sourced from P1.32 billion worth of loans from Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) and some P289 million in the Philippine government counterpart.

The second infrastructure project worth P590.85 million involves the Sta.Cruz, Lubao-Dinalupihan section of Gapan-San Fernando-Olongapo Road project Phase II. It consists of P485.4 million from loan proceeds from the Korea Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) and a P105.42-million counterpart from the Philippine government.

“This is not pork. This is part of the JBIC program,” Lacierda said in press conference in the Palace. “It is not because of a preference of the pervious administration. It is for the benefit of those affected by Mt. Pinatubo,” he added.

Asked if the Palace welcomes the Arroyo-initiated public works project in Pampanga, Lacierda said: “it’s a very important loan.

If you are asking me if we are thankful, it’s already there to help the affected people there.”

Lacierda, however, admitted that the allocation for the foreign-assisted project in Pampanga may be reduced if some of its phases are not urgent and “not yet awarded and ongoing.”

He said Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson will study the phases of the public works project in Pampanga and check if they should be prioritized. He noted that Singson has expressed concerns on the smaller components of the project like dredging in small rivers and raising of roads in Lubao that could be postponed.

On Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano’s claims that former President Arroyo is a sacred cow under the Aquino government as it gave her supposed large pork barrel funds, Lacierda said: “I think Senator Cayetano should be the first to know that we are not the best of friends with the former President.”

Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad also said the government would not allow anybody to personally benefit from the two critical infrastructure projects in Central Luzon “as their pork barrel.”

“We are committed to reviewing these projects, among others, to make sure that their development purposes are indeed achieved. Furthermore, we are committed to instituting transparency and accountability in the bidding and implementation of these projects,” he said in a statement.

The first project, funded by loan agreements with JBIC on December 2007, seeks "to mitigate flood damage from the elevation of riverbed and the clogging of river way caused by outflow and sedimentation of pyroclastic flows, to secure the physical distribution, to improve the hygienic environment, and to promote sustainable development including the development of Subic-Clark in the project areas."

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