ALL IS WELL between Gov. Joseph Cua and the 11 municipal mayors following a meeting held by the LMP Catanduanes chapter at the governor’s office to discuss some town executive’s gripes regarding the distribution of relief goods by the provincial government and the disposition of the P34 million in cash donations received by the Capitol.
Rejecting a suggestion to spend it all on infrastructure, the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (PDRRMC) has decided to allocate nearly 92 percent of the P49 million financial assistance of the national government for calamity-stricken areas to shelter materials and food items.
In its meeting last Dec. 3, 2020 at the Office of the Governor, the council chaired by Gov. Joseph Cua unanimously approved the allocation of the P49,914,367.00 granted by Malacanang through Local Budget Circular No. 130 dated Nov. 19, 2020.
With several members pointing out that the amount would be too small to be able to make a dent on the huge damage sustained by government buildings, the council apportioned the amount as follows: P30,114,367.00 for housing materials; P15 million for food items; P2.3 million for communications equipment; P2 million for fuel; and, P500,000.00 for hauling costs.
This in addition to the P18,992,500.00 also allocated for housing materials such as GI sheets and roofing nails and P5,692,000.00 intended for relief items for all 11 towns except Gigmoto, charged to the P33,684,500.00 in cash donations received by the province.
Gigmoto has been given P2 million in the form of 25 kilos of rice for every household, as specified by donor and TV personality Willie Revillame while the balance will go to hauling (P2 million) as well as health and emergency management activities as a pre-condition of the Department of Health’s P5 million assistance.
Provincial Administrator Lemuel Surtida told the Tribune that the P49 million will have to be spent or obligated for the specified expenditures on or before the Dec. 31, 2020 deadline set by the Bureau of Treasury.
The DBM circular had stated that the P7.5 billion financial assistance charged by the Palace to the National DRRM Fund may be utilized by the local government units until Dec. 31, 2021, causing confusion among the LGUs.
It also provided that the assistance shall be used for DRRM programs, projects and activities, such as disaster prevention and mitigation, disaster preparedness, disaster response, and disaster rehabilitation and recovery.
For Catanduanes, the DBM allocated a total of P143.2 million as financial assistance, distributed as follows: Bagamanoc, P2,099,124.00; Baras, P5,441,365.00; Bato, P9,985,000.00; Caramoran, P4,239,589.00; Gigmoto, P4,974,873.00; Pandan, P3,216,948.00; Panganiban, P1,515,937.00; San Andres, P9,283,381.00; San Miguel, P4,440,279.00; Viga, P10,066,156.00; Virac, P38,034,522.00; and, Catanduanes province, P49,914,367.00.
The amount per LGU was determined based on the number of affected families/persons based on the reports of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), proportionate amount of damages incurred on infrastructure and agriculture sectors based on the reports of the NDRRM Council; and, the proportionate amount of the FY 2020 Internal Revenue Allotment shares of the affected LGUs.
According to various reports, Virac has decided to utilize the P38 million assistance for the agriculture and fisheries sector, particularly in the purchase of motorized bancas for fishermen who lost theirs during super typhoon Rolly.
In a related development, majority of the town mayors have reached an understanding with Gov. Cua regarding the disposition of the P33.6 million cash donations received by the province and the status of the provincial government’s own relief augmentation efforts.
In a meeting of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) Catanduanes chapter headed by San Andres Mayor Peter C. Cua at the governor’s office, the mayors had sought clarification regarding the cash donations following reports that they wanted the assistance divided among 11 towns.
Some of the mayors, notably Virac Mayor Sinforoso Sarmiento Jr. and Bato Mayor Juan Rodulfo, had claimed in media interviews that their towns had not received any aid from the capitol.
Rebutting the allegations, Gov. Cua cited consolidated reports indicating that the provincial government, through the PSWDO, has distributed a total of 156,861 food packs to all 11 towns as of Dec. 2, 2020.
Most of the goods, he said, were delivered direct to recipient barangays for distribution, in compliance with the verbal directive of Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque III that handling of relief goods be minimized to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease.
“We worked through the MSWDOs to distribute the relief goods to the barangays,” Cua stressed, citing that all releases are properly documented.
Claiming that they did not know about the direct distribution of the Capitol relief goods, the mayors asked the PSWDO to furnish them a detailed list of the relief distribution made directly to the barangays, to ensure that there would be no duplication.
On the other hand, PA Surtida said it would be difficult to budget money which the capitol does not have, in answer to the Bato chief executive’s suggestion that the donations be spend as soon as it is received.
Taking up Mayor Cua’s proposal that future relief goods be coursed through the municipal mayors, the governor urged them to submit a request to the provincial government.
Gov. Cua also announced that Sen. Bong Go, through the National Food Authority (NFA), is giving each town 500 bags of NFA rice and the province 1,500 bags.
This is aside from the 5,600 bags paid for by the province out of its Calamity Fund, the delivery of which the NFA has yet to complete.
Emphasizing that 500 bags each would not be enough for Virac and San Andres considering their population compared to the other towns, Mayor Sarmiento managed to convince the governor to give an additional 1,000 bags to the capital town.
As to the distribution of the GI sheets and roofing nails to be purchased by the province out of the cash donations and its share in the financial assistance, it was agreed that the distribution will be on a percentage basis and not equal sharing.
“We will conduct an actual validation to exclude those whose houses have already been repaired,” Gov. Cua said as he asked for a list of those who had been given GI sheets by the LGUs, DSWD and private donors.
The provincial chief executive also explained the role of the Ando Cua Foundation in the relief effort, following allegations that the foundation was marking boxes of relief goods bound for the towns with its logo.
He said that the foundation has offered free logistics for the transport and delivery of relief goods bound for Catanduanes, with the ACF sticker used to indicate to cargo handlers that it is being shipped free of charge courtesy of the foundation.
He urged the mayors to avail of the free logistics still being offered by the foundation so town residents outside Catanduanes can send relief items to their families in the island.