Governor Joseph C. Cua has reportedly agreed to attend a forthcoming meeting of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) Catanduanes Chapter to discuss the recent concerns of some mayors regarding the distribution of relief goods coming from the provincial government.
His brother, LMP chapter president and San Andres Mayor Peter C. Cua allegedly discussed the possibility with the governor in Cabcab during the arrival of Sen. Richard Gordon.
Present during the Gordon visit were Panganiban Mayor Cesar Robles, Virac Mayor Sinforoso Sarmiento and San Miguel Mayor Francisco Camano Jr., with the latter making the suggestion to Mayor Cua while they were waiting for the senator’s arrival in barangay Cabcab last Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020.
We just want to know how the provincial government will allocate the relief goods from the cash donations to the province so what we can distribute our own relief assistance equitably to our constituents, Camano reportedly said.
A day earlier, in his office, Gov. Cua replied to claims by chief executives that relief goods from the Capitol were being brought straight to the barangays of their towns without passing through the municipal government.
He explained that Catanduanes is still under the pandemic quarantine and Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III has warned during his recent visit here that the LGUs should avoid excessive handling of relief goods to avoid spreading coronavirus.
The provincial government only augments in the calamity response effort as it is the mayors who are responsible for first providing needed food assistance to their constituents, he said.
“Naghahalat lang kami kung sisay ang mahagad nin tabang,” Cua stressed, pointing out that it is not in the guidelines that relief goods coming from the province should be coursed through the municipalities.
He cited the case of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which asks the towns for lists of typhoon victims and then delivers the goods straight to the identified residents, but with the capitol’s assistance, and that of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) which gave its cash donations through the towns.
Sen. Bong Go, he disclosed, last week verbally provided, through the National Food Authority (NFA), all 11 towns with 500 bags of rice each, with the province getting 1,000 sacks.
Regarding Bato Mayor Juan Rodulfo’s request that his town is entitled to an equal share in the P10 million donated by Malacanang to the province, Gov. Cua said it was the provincial government which asked for the cash assistance.
“I cannot decide on my own, as disposition of the donation is subject to the decision of the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC),” he pointed out.
In its meeting last Nov. 23, the PDRRMC approved a resolution providing for the utilization of the total P33,684,500.00 cash and cheque donations to the province as follows: P18,992,500.00 for corrugated Gi sheets and hardware materials, with each of 3,550 totally-damaged households to get 10 GI sheets and two (2) kilos of umbrella nails; P2 million for hauling expenses; P2 million in relief items for Gigmoto; P5,692,000.00 in relief items for the other 10 towns; and, the DOH’s P5 million donation for specific Health Emergency Management activities.
That resolution was later approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan during its special session last Saturday afternoon.
On not convening the mayors in the wake of the three typhoons that battered the island, the provincial chief executive said that before, during and after disasters, it is the disaster councils that are convened, not the Catanduanes Development Council (CDC) where the mayors are members.
In his letter to Pres. Rodrigo Duterte dated Nov. 26, Mayor Rodulfo claimed it was the understanding of his constituents that the cash donations to the province were intended by the donors to benefit all 11 municipalities.
He alleged that “as of this writing, the Municipality of Bato has yet to receive assistance from the Provincial Government,” with the municipal government exerting efforts to deliver relief goods relying on its limited funds and donations from private persons and government personalities and offices “despite the lack of adequate support from huge amount of donations delivered through the Office of the Governor.”
Most of the mayors in the province have been left to their own devices in providing relief goods to its constituents, “as help from the provincial government has yet to trickle down to the municipal governments,” Rodulfo said.
He also appealed for transparency and accountability on the cash assistance and other donations received by the governor’s office and requested Duterte’s intervention in directing Cua to apportion the donations to the respective mayors of the 11 municipalities, regardless of political affiliation or personal bias and based on the extent of damages.
He likewise asked the president to “constitute a team to conduct an investigation to determine whether Gov. Cua should be held liable or not for apparent mishandling or misappropriating of received cash assistance and other donations for the People of Catanduanes.”
“I welcome it. Dai man ning problema,” Cua said during the presscon, noting that it was Virac Mayor Sinforoso Sarmiento who first filed a complaint, followed by Mayor Rodulfo.
On Gigmoto Mayor Edgar Tayam’s demand on social media for his P2 million share out of the P5 million cheque given by Willie Revillame to the capitol, the governor said the popular TV host issued specific instructions during their breakfast meeting that the P2 million should not be given in cash but in the form of one-half sack of rice for all households in the town.
Cua likewise claimed that when Aremar Construction of Sorsogon donated 1,500 sacks of rice for the province, Bato got a share of 500 sacks after the mayor’s brother made a personal request with the donor, with the rice going directly to the town.
“Puro man kita busy, baad dai sinda na-update kan saindang MSWDO o MDRRMO,” he said, adding that the province has records of its augmentation relief goods received by towns and barangays.
He also shared his having received a plaque of appreciation from Mayor Jose Paolo Teves of Baras for the assistance extended to Barasnon during the typhoon Rolly relief operation.
On the Virac mayor’s claim that the town did not receive aid, the governor pointed out that on Nov. 3, Mayor Sarmiento made a verbal request for 500 boxes of relief goods out of the DSWD regional office’s allocation for the province and was given the goods right at the airport upon arrival.
“The LGUs are already conducting their own relief operations, so it would be better for the capitol to join them for the same purpose since we have more people,” Cua said.
“Ang maraot kung pigatago,” he said. “Dai ngani kitang warehouse.”
He said he asked Malacanang spokesman Harry Roque for 500,000 family food packs, five times the estimated 100,000 households affected by the calamity, as each pack is only good for two to three days.
“In this time of calamity, let’s set aside politics,” the governor appealed, claiming that some of his opponents are hiding behind social media.
“Kung gusto mo magsirve sa provincial, magluwas kamo, mag-distribute kamo ning relief goods, dai na pagpa-agihon sa provinciua, municipio o barangay tanganing ma-apreciar kamo kan publico,” he emphasized.
He bared that Ando Cua Foundation is providing free shipping in the province for relief goods brought by donors at drop-off points and delivered straight to recipients at their homes.
“Gatabang lang tabi kita,” Cua remarked. “Ang tabang nindo pang-uuyag sa sako.”
However, he expressed satisfaction that despite the numerous negative comments on social media, which the capitol said came mostly from those residing outside the island, donations have continued pouring in for the relief effort.