With a unanimous vote, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan gave its nod to the P900 million Supplemental Annual Investment Plan No. 2, but removed the funding for Information and Communication Activities.
In its regular session last April 6, the provincial board headed by Acting Vice Governor Lorenzo T. Templonuevo Jr. voted for the supplemental AIP but had to exclude the P318,000.00 funding set aside for use of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) and the Philippine Broadcasting Services-Radyo Pilipinas Catanduanes (PBS-RPC) following a privilege speech on the matter by Provincial Board Member Edwin T. Tanael.
Under the CDC-approved investment plan, an amount totaling P107,400.00 was allotted for the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) and the Philippine Broadcasting Services-Radyo Pilipinas Catanduanes (PBS-RPC) in producing news releases, advisories and photo releases, conduct of radio programs and press briefings, distribution of IEC materials, posting on the Catanduanes PIA page, IEC on COVID prevention, issues and concerns via broadcast and social media, news gathering and production, attending meetings, and news releases via radio broadcast and Facebook live.
The amount is supposed to be spent for supplies and materials, meals and snacks, gasoline and load allowance of personnel of the two agencies.
PBM Tanael questioned the allocation for the two government media agencies, noting that the province is already being bombarded with COVID-19 information from the national media.
“Why should we still allocate this money for our government information agencies when it is their job to disseminate?” the veteran legislator stressed, adding that the money could be better spent to buy rice for the province’s relief efforts during the quarantine period.
On the other hand, he described the allocation of P210,600.00 for the Caritas Virac Justice and Peace, Inc. as “religious assistance” prohibited by Article 2, Section 6 of the Constitution.
He claimed the amount would be spent to buy public address systems or “trumpa” to churches “to disseminate their rituals.”
“Bako sa kontra ako kaini,” Tanael said, “but if we want to support religious groups, we can do it on our own.”
“As this is a matter of allocating government funds, we have to review as there is already a precedent wherein the national government’s grant of P1.6 million to some religious group was disallowed,” he added.
The P210,600.00 funding was supposedly for load allowance for the Diocese of Virac and its 36 parishes in the provision of counselling through cellphones and broadcast of religious rites through Public Address systems and social media platforms.
As approved by the CDC, the Supplemental AIP No. 2 is broken down as follows: P43,394,443.00 for the Preparedness program against COVID-19, with the bulk to be spent for various equipment, medicines and supplies for use at the Eastern Bicol Medical Center; P52,218,179.00 for Prevention and Response Operations, including P30 million for the establishment, operation and maintenance of three (3) alternative quarantine centers in Virac, namely, the Catanduanes National High School (CNHS), Virac Pilot Elementary School (VPES) and Virac Central Elementary School (VCES);
P12,659,040.00 for Peace & Order and Safety, particularly the conduct of checkpoint and border control by the Philippine National Police (PNP), Philippine Army, Philippine Coast Guard, and the Philippine Red Cross; and, P235,182,218.00 for Food Security and Provision of Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation, including over P216 million for the purchase of 173,127 bags of NFA rice, which will be distributed to 57,709 households in Catanduanes at three (3) bags per household.
Also in the plan is the amount of P505 million for Preparedness, Prevention and Response Operations for other emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases.