The Capitol Pork Barrel

When infrastructure projects account for 98 percent of the province’s 20% Economic Development Fund, which is intended to spur economic growth and progress, our leaders should not be surprised to hear descriptions of the 2011 Annual Investment Plan as just another scheme to repay elective officials for the humongous expense they incurred in buying votes last May 2010.

But the people should not complain too loudly, for they have chosen the leaders who are now deciding the fate of the province, including how its scarce resources are to be marshaled in trying to develop Catanduanes. Sources say that following tradition, members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan have been allocated at least a million pesos in projects each, with those close to the Capitol kitchen getting so much more than soot on their hands. In the next few months, they will be transformed into contractors, their second personality.

As the people will see from the list of projects, most are laudable projects, especially those intended for the improvement of health services, concreting of roads and construction of water systems. The administration of Governor Joseph Cua has also provided funding for its pet projects: P1 million for the demolition of the defunct JMA Theatre to make way for a two-storey building and parking lot to be built by Land Bank; P2 million for the renovation of the former 3rd floor office of the DILG at the capitol which will soon be the office of the provincial chief executive; P1.9 million for the repair of the old Capitol building in Sta. Elena, the ground floor of which will be occupied by the comebacking Development Bank of the Philippines; and, P20 million for the renovation of the Virac Youth Center, which will be converted into a commercial center to be leased to the LCC group.

Still, some people may not resist the urge to point out that spending P280,000.00 for the construction of an entrance arch at Igang, Virac may be a little too much. So with the allocation of P4.1 million for the leveling of an entire mountain just to provide a plaza for the people of Tokio in Pandan.

Ensuring that scarce public funds would be spent wisely as intended is supposed to be the job of the opposition legislators but even the people are not sure whether there is still a viable opposition in the provincial board as the erstwhile opponents of the governor have yet to emerge from the holes they crawled into after their stinging setbacks last May.

With the useless Project Monitoring Committees in hibernation at the LGU level, it may be up to the voters to make sure that these 72 projects costing P80 million are properly implemented according to specifications. Failing that, the people should pray that our elective officials-cum-contractors would still have the decency to give us projects that would not turn into "ampaw" before their three-year terms are over.

Source: Editorial, Catanduanes Tribune - 22 December 2010