Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Albay 3rd district maximizes use of Php2B 2015 national fund to improve agriculture, social services
By Danny O. Calleja

LIGAO CITY, Jan. 4 (PNA) -- Albay Congressman Fernando V. Gonzalez hails it as “well done” the implementation of over Php2-billion projects in his district funded under the Php2.6-trillion 2015 national budget.

“We were fortunate to be given such allocation last year whose projects funded were implemented according to the needs of my district,” Gonzalez, who represents the province’s 3rd congressional district, on Monday told the Philippines News Agency (PNA).

That allocation, he said, was properly used in projects intended to improve the living conditions in the barrios as well as in enhancing agricultural productivity.

The district covers this city and six municipalities - - Pioduran, Polangui, Guinobatan, Oas, Libon and Jovellar -- whose economy is principally agriculture-based.

Majority of these projects are infrastructure designed to address, among others, the nagging problem brought about by constant flooding that most of the time submerge some towns disrupting the flow of trade and commerce and the farms, destroying large volumes of crops.

“We are now in the process of making the entire district flood-free. With that fund last year, we were able to address the flooding in the municipalities by way of establishing permanent structures like concrete dikes and river control facilities,” the congressman said.

Some of these municipalities are within the Bicol River Basin, which serves as the receiving end of flashfloods from the slopes of Mt. Mayon and swells the Bato Lake in the neighboring town of Bato, Camarines Sur during heavy down pours.

Small irrigation systems, farm-to-market roads cum palay and corn drying facilities and other farm productivity projects were also completed without neglecting basic programs and services such as education, public health services, water system, disaster control, fishery development and tourism promotion, he said.

For education, according to Gonzalez, the district got around 400 new classrooms in preparation for the scheduled implementation next school year of the Senior High School Curriculum under the K-12 Basic Education Program.

As a calamity preparedness measure, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) was also able to construct last year about a dozen of hanging steel bridges in areas of the district where establishing the conventional concrete bridges could be more expensive.

Among them is the 120-meter structure completed last August to connect the island sub-village of Lagaan with its mother barangay—Banawan, at the downtown of Pioduran.

Built for an amount of about Php5 million from national appropriation, the structure, now serving as a foot bridge primarily for some 500 households occupying the sub-village, hangs 15 feet above the surface of the mouth of the river that ends at the shoreline of Burias Pass, making it impassable by foot during high tides.

Designed to last for at least 25 years, “this is a wild dream realized for us and for all those people who would benefit from it,” according to town Mayor Henry Callope.

He said worries about the safety of children crossing the river to school almost everyday are now erased by this bridge and during typhoon situations, securing the safety of Lagaan residents through evacuation would no longer be a big problem for the local government.

“This structure now becomes part of the town government’s disaster risk reduction and management facility,” he added.

Gonzalez said the project is only one of the about a dozen of similarly designed bridges that now serve its purpose in various communities of the district he represents in Congress.

“These projects finally solve the problem of isolation being suffered by thousands of families in most of our remote villages, especially during natural calamity situations. These projects serve as one of the testaments of concern of the national government to our people, particularly the poor,” he said.

Under the Aquino administration, Gonzalez said, projects like these that seemed not doable in the past could be done to serve the poorest of the poor in rural communities while “on my part, I see to it that the needs of the district I represent are addressed by concerned national agencies—a job that is more convenient this time or after the abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).”

After a quick look back at 2014, the year that marked the historic “death” of the infamous congressional pork barrel known as PDAF, he said, its death is after all proving to be more of good than harm for the people, particularly the poor.

What makes the new system more exciting is that congressmen need to do more leg works if they want to deliver the goods to their respective constituencies.

“Since we perform dual functions—national legislators at the same time representatives of our people to the national government -- our work at home is to find out what are needed by our constituents especially in the barangays and submit the list of these needs to concerned agencies for inclusion with their proposal for funding under the next year budget,” Gonzalez explained.

It is as simple as that and congressmen can no longer involve themselves in the implementation of whatever project they recommended, except in the monitoring.

Officials of barangays that are project beneficiaries are now the ones linked with the implementing agency, hence, barrio folk and national government workers are drawn face to face with each other, making the relationship more cordial and mutual, the congressman said.

This year, he said, his district expects from the Php3.002-General Appropriation Act (GAA) signed by President Aquino last Dec. 22 an amount more than what it got last year.

"We are not left behind in terms of national government attention because we see to it in Congress that all necessary projects and programs in the district that need national government funding are included in the preparations of the national budget,” Gonzalez added. (PNA) PGL/FGS/DOC/CBD