(Part 2: Issues of Priorities and Corruption)
The dolomite ending should have really been a non-issue save for the incompetence of our environment officials who miserably failed communicating its coming.
The DENR bobos have not heard about social preparation in good governance and importance of public debate pro and con an impending issue. It would have been a good exercise using the democratic space, except some public officials are really just insensitive.
So what if the budget for the project was already allocated and available even before Covid-19 came to town? Wala na bang say either way ang madlang pipol?
Worse, nakapuntos finally ang oposisyon dahil ang sama-sama talaga ng timing. Worst, the dimwit DDS frame the dolomite scam as Duterte’s beautification of Aquino garbage beach.
The public already knows how criminal and decrepit the past administration is. Many among them have already their reservations waiting for them at the National Penitentiary but let’s face it, Digong lacks the daring in incarcerating big name politicians for fear of reprisal against his family after he steps down from office.
Well he has less than two years left in office to prove me wrong. But the lack of strategic and integrative wisdom continues to rock his administration. If this continues, the President will not be able to name his successor to the Palace.
Having said that, I doubt if any “putangina” can help cover up for this moronic judgment call.
It is unthinkable to fire Francisco Duque, Silvestre Bello and a few more deadweights in government in the midstream of the Covid-19 pandemic but it is top priority to ship 80,000 cubic meters of dolomite sand from Cebu ostensibly to beautify half-a-kilometer of Manila Bay beachfront beside the US Embassy?
Serafin Ledesma Jr. one of the president’s silent advisers who is a practicing journalist in Davao City, could not hold his peace.
He said, “The big question is, If Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu can easily transport (crushed dolomite) from faraway Cebu to Manila, why cannot Agriculture Secretary William Dar help Benguet vegetable farmers to bring their bumper crops to Manila?”
This is no longer Aquino versus Duterte. This is Duterte versus Duterte’s men. The stinging issue in this dolomite scam is how this administration sets its priorities when it comes to its policies and projects.
Who will argue against beautifying the Manila Bay? Certainly not me so let’s put this in its proper perspective.
In Part 1, I discussed basically the health and toxicity aspects of dolomite.
So let’s move on, is this beautification project a life-and-death matter under the Covid pandemic crisis?
First, the Philippines has incurred 237,365 cases and 3,875 deaths due to the corona virus. We are still under GCQ, and therefore, in a state of health emergency.
The state of health facilities in the Philippines, as a whole, needs massive reform. Around 40 percent of hospitals are public which means a bigger pie belongs to the private sector whose condition-reflex is to gouge their customers.
The disparity is more noticeable in tertiary hospitals where the number of private hospitals is four times that of the government hospitals. I repeat, four times, which means 25%.
Out of 721 public hospitals, 70 are managed by the DOH while the remaining hospitals are managed by LGUs and other national government agencies.
I don’t know if we can even discuss the state of the barangay health system or the status of public health workers. It is enough to say that our health workers prefer working abroad than in-country. Another aspect I would even try putting my fingers on, is the possible bankruptcy of the Philhealth after two mafias have feasted on it for decades – proof positive that public funds must be handled with much sensitivity and transparency.
Second, according to Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), an estimated 2.5 million workers nationwide have been displaced due to the pandemic. Data from DOLE showed the pandemic forced over 93,000 commercial establishments employing 2.5 million workers to temporarily shut down or adopt flexible work arrangement since the start of the outbreak.
Beggars are present at every key intersection of Metro Manila.
Third, as a rejoinder to Jun Ledesma’s reaction, farm gate prices down to 11 pesos/kilo from P22 two years ago.
I was awakened by a text tone at five o’clock this morning. Former Aggie Secretary Manny Pinol sharing that Mindanao-wide farmers, including the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) of which he heads, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, BARMM Chief Minister Ahod Murad Ebrahim, various congressmen, governors and mayors who comprise Regional Development Councils and private sector representatives, passed a unanimous resolution urging both Congress and the Senate to review and make amendments to Republic Act 11203 which allows the unimpeded entry of imported rice into the country.
The resolution was presented as among the issues and problems which could affect Mindanao’s economic recovery following the Covid-19 pandemic.
I wish to correct that statement. That sentiment does not just involve Mindanao, it is nationwide, which means that this could be the fastest way President Duterte has become a lameduck.
My three tenants for the three-hectare riceland my father left me, have been trying to resign since December, demanding that I just replenish whatever equivalent value there is of their rights. If they do, where will I get their replacements when the average age of farmers is 57 years old? So far I have appeased them, by giving them my share of sale, yes, leaving me with nothing.
Last April, 2020, the Duterte government announced the importation of about 300,000 metric tons (MT) of rice sending pundits to ask what happened to the 3 million MT of rice imported in less than 10 months in 2019?
Fourth, Department of Education Secretary Leonor Briones said “We are not interfering with the budget of others but if we had [the P389 million] budget [for a makeover project of the Manila Baywalk], I’m sure we would have used it for gadgets, computers, and radios [for distance learning],” Briones said in Filipino.
Because we have more than 3,000 schools which we call ‘Last Mile Schools’ that don’t have connectivity [and] are quite isolated, so [the funds] would have helped,” the education secretary said in Filipino.
DepEd last year unveiled the Last Mile Schools Program which “aims to address the gaps in resources and facilities of schools that are located in geographically isolated and disadvantaged and conflict-affected areas (GIDCA).”
There are 3,000 schools in the “Last Mile” those with less than four classrooms, usually makeshift and nonstandard ones; no electricity; no funds for repairs or new construction projects in the last four years; and a travel distance of more than one hour away from the center, accessible only through difficult terrain.”
These Last Mile schools are also with multi-grade classes, with less than five teachers, and a population of less than 100 learners, more than 75% of whom are indigenous peoples (IP).
As of July 2019, the department identified around 7,144 schools nationwide in need of immediate support.
But they have to wait for the next administration because Secretary Roy Cimatu and his sidekick Undersecretary Antiporda has a makeover to accomplish in the midst of the Covic-19 pandemic.
But perhaps the most stunning of all is the issue of possible corruption.
The Cebu Provincial Board on Friday questioned how the dolomite was transported out of the province without the knowledge of the local government.
Terry Ridon, convenor of Infrawatch PH, said the approved budget of the Manila Bay Rehabilitation Program was P397.897 million.
Infrawatch PH, on its Facebook page, said the exact figure was P397,897,376.62, citing as its source Supplemental Bulletin No. 1 of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Antiporda earlier said the project cost P349 million, but later issued a correction and placed the cost at P389 million.
“For this project,’’ Ridon said, “the bulk of the work are earthworks, particularly backfilling. There are no other major works for this project except earthworks.”
Citing the DPWH’s own backfilling cost estimate, he said the typical unit cost of backfilling work is “around P442.89 per cubic meter,” which he rounded to P500 per cubic meter “for simplicity.”
Since “the project requires a total of 164,700 cubic meters of sand,” Ridon said, that total multiplied by P500 equals the cost of P82,350,000.”
Now that the whiff of corruption has started to stink, Environment Undersecretary Jonas Leonas issued a clarification.
The environment officials explained that while they were given P389 million for the beach nourishment project, only P28 million was used for the dolomite sand.
“Per Department of Public Works and Highways report ang naibayad sa contract ay P28 million. Cost of dolomite, transport, taxes and other fees kasi package na po yung delivery from Cebu to Manila bay,” Leonas said.
The confusion continues on as figures from the DPWH supplied by my source alleges differently. The meme submitted wants Antiporda to account where allegedly an unaccounted P345 million went.
I guess we will have to wait for Congressman Rodante Marcoleta to figure this out when this monstrosity gets to Congress undergoing the fine-tooth comb that ABSCBNPhilhealth did not pass.