Pork barrel menu is DBM ‘concoction’

This is in response to the article “Sorsogon solon’s pork also used for burial” by Juan Escandor Jr. and Shiena Barrameda. (Across the Nation, 8/31/13). A substantially similar article (“Solon’s PDAF provides burial assistance”) by the same authors was also published by Bicol Mail on Aug. 29, 2013.

First, the articles erroneously reported that I included burials in my “pork barrel menu.” To set the record straight, I have nothing to do with the menu because it was the Department of Budget and Management that made it. In fact, the DBM’s National Budget Circular No. 547 (issued Jan. 18, 2013) is meant to guide congressmen, if not limit their discretion, in their PDAF allocations.

The writers utterly ignored the circular that governs the distribution. And they reported about the “pork barrel menu” without reading the menu itself when it is available online (DBM website).

Pursuant to DBM guidelines, I consistently allocated to local government units funds for assistance to indigent individuals/families, and to the Department of Social Welfare and Development for the Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (CIDDS) Program. Both programs allow disbursements for burial assistance subject to DSWD Administrative Order No. 5, Series of 2008.

Second, the reports made reference to a “P30,000 in burial assistance” as “part of allotments made by mayors.” This is quite inaccurate. The guidelines limit the burial assistance to P3,000 if cash, and P5,000 if check. As borne out by records available from my legislative office and from recipient-LGUs, there was no disbursement of P30,000 for burial assistance.

Third, the report conveniently failed to say that I also provided funds for medical assistance in the Bicol Regional Training and Teaching Hospital (BRTTH) in Legazpi City and Sorsogon provincial hospital. Instead it went on to state that I funneled funds to the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) and the East Avenue Medical Center, hospitals that are “hundreds of kilometers away from Ramos’ district, for poor patients.” It’s as if something is wrong with what I did.

Not all medical conditions can be adequately treated in BRTTH and the provincial hospital for lack of qualified specialists or for the absence of facilities, or both. It is also undeniable that not all of my constituents are based in Sorsogon. Many of them work elsewhere but still find time to return to their hometown.

More to the point: Who are we to decide which hospital a patient must go to? At least, my constituents are using the money allotted in PGH, Philippine Heart Center, Philippine Lung Center, Philippine Orthopedic Center, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, among others.

Aside from burial assistance, the DSWD and LGUs can provide indigents with food, educational, transportation, medical and dental assistance. This is one reason why I made funds available for my poor constituents. Why single out burial assistance?

In the name of transparency and accountability, I caused the publication of my 15th Congress PDAF distribution in a local newspaper in Sorsogon. Had the writers taken the trouble to read the copies I made available to them, they would have written a balanced and fair article.


Second District, Sorsogon

The letter is published at Philippine Daily Inquirer on the 9th of October, 2013.

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Bagyong Yolanda – Pag Hurup-hurop

Namunduun ako san mga nakita ko sa telibisyon. Makahahaya!

An bilas ko na opisyales san EMS sa Albay pinadara ni Gov. Salceda sa Leyte via Roro/Maharlika Highway. Pero dili sinda nakaabot sin Tacloban City kay may mga harang an agihan. An isturya san sister-in-law ko, nagtawag kuno an bilas ko sa sa iya para lang mag isturya na may nagrani kuno na mag-ina – naghahagad sin bulong kay may kalintura an batit; maski kuno dili na an pagkaon, bulong lang. Wara man maihatag an bilas ko kay nabilin an equipment/supplies ninda kay nagralakaw na lang. For 24 hours, they didn’t have enough sleep trying to reach their destination by foot. An mga gadan kuno nakakalat sa highway!

Nadumduman ko lugod an Bagyong Sisang na kun hain damu man na Sorsoganon an namatay kay dahil man sana na haragtaasun na mga balud (aka storm surge). Pero siguro, dili na natun makukumpara kay san panahon wara sin internet/mobile nan mas diyut an tawo. Pero maski papan-o, an hinagpis san mga kababayan ta, pareho lang.

An hapot, preparado daw an mga opisyales natun sa Sorsogon para sa next Big One – pag-tiris san bulod o linog man o bagyo? Dili ko man ini ginhahagad, pero sa panahon niyan na bagan buang (o makabubuang) an panahon, dili ka makasigurado na an nangyari sa Leyte dili p’wede mangyari sa ibang probinsiya. An Bohol ngani, ni-linog na, gin-bagyo pa! Dapat maging handa intiru, dili lang an mga opisyales san gobiyerno.

 Pero maski na nano pa man an nangyari sa Leyte, Samar nan mga kararani – an Pilipino, pirmi nabangon; amo ini an nangyari sa mga Sorsoganon pagkatapos san Sisang.

Ingat tabi kamo!

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Gusto ko na umuli!

Pag nagpapatung-patung an trabaho, amo ini an panahon na gustuhunon ko mag-uli kaupod an asawa ko nan na batit ko.

Gusto ko magpa-Tolonggapo Beach, magpahayahay maski pirang minuto man lang. Maski dili na magkarigus, maski maglakat-lakat lang sa baybay. Magayunon maglakat hali sa saro na durho nan hanggang didto sa Fisherman’s Hut resort. Pero an bati-bati ko, natabunan na kuno sin tubig an mga baybay. Nakikita pa kaya an tolong bato?

Sorsogon City Pier c2004

Sorsogon City Pier c2004

Kun naharayuan san dagat, puwede man na magburubaklay pa pier. Mahilig pan-o ako maglakat-lakat, an old habit back in my younger days. By doing so, I get the feel of the ordinary activities of the residents.

Tapos mahapit ako sa Pam’s para makimeryenda. Number 1 an Lomi ninda, grabe an bangut!

This is the western side of Cawayan river relative to the Cawayan Bridge.

Just by staring at the river and the mountains, it will already have a soothing effect. Cawayan River at Brgy. Guinlajon.

An magayunon sa Sorsogon kay tricycle lang, yadto ka na sa kakadtuhan mo nan dili mausukun (unless you are Rizal or Magsaysay Street during rush hour). Madaliun magbisita sa mga tiyaun/tiyoun, mga pinsan nan mga pag-iriba.

O maski dili na ngani maghali sa balay, magkita ka na lang san mga bayung sa kabas-an o an mga puno sa bulod. Amo lang ina, sulit na an pag-uli ko….. nan internet palan, kaipuhan ko.

Kakapung-aw an Sorsogon natun!!!

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Clark Airport to be Linked to North Luzon Railway

PNR train crossing the Bicutan section.

PNR train crossing the Bicutan section.

CLARK FREEPORT, Philippines—The proposed North Integrated Luzon Railway, which will run from Cagayan Valley to Sorsogon province in Bicol, will include a link to the Clark International Airport (CRK) here, Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said.

“It would not be difficult to run a spur leg along those rails servicing Clark. That is how we see a rail system servicing Clark,” Abaya told the Inquirer on the sidelines of a program welcoming the maiden flight of Emirates from Dubai to Clark on Oct. 1.

The government has no figures as to how much the new and longer railway project would cost.

The main entrance of Clark Economic Zone in Pampanga. Photo is via http://www.clarksubicmarketing.com.

The project comes after China sued the Philippines over the delay in the implementation of the North Luzon Railway (NorthRail), which was started during the term of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Abaya said the project cost of the new railway would be known after the completion of a feasibility study.

He said the government was looking at developing a two-airport system consisting of the CRK and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia), perhaps even a three-airport system.

In the second option, it would be a combination of the CRK, Naia and a replacement or supplement for Naia, the location of which is still being studied.

Aside from extending the terminal at CRK, a 45,000-square meter terminal for low-cost carriers is also being planned.

“We will continue to support Clark though we will not put all our eggs in Clark,” Abaya said.

He said the entry of Emirates “shows their confidence in how the airport is run.”

Victor Jose Luciano, president of the state-owned Clark International Airport Corp., said passengers in CRK grew from 533,619 in 2007 to 1.3 million in 2012 as flights increased from 2,596 to 6,409 for the same period.

“From their economic interest, [Emirates] see a market,” Abaya said.

He said the government would continue to invest in CRK in support of the aviation industry.

In a speech read by Abaya, President Aquino said the decision of Emirates to make CRK a second gateway after Naia was a “recognition of how far the Philippines, a nation once considered an economic underdog, has come: today, we are developing into a nation that is a wellspring of opportunity for both Filipinos and foreigners.”

“This inaugural flight comes at a time when we have started to reap the gains brought about by good governance and a commitment expressed by the Filipino people to turn our nation around,” Mr. Aquino said.

Emirates’ Boeing 777 brought home 150 passengers, mostly Filipinos.

Luciano said the liberalized policy put in place by the government helped bring Emirates to CRK after five years of talks.

Mr. Aquino said the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines was “working hard” to upgrade the capacities of airlines and aviation services, and set improved operation standards for industry players and stakeholders.

“The presence of Emirates in our country signals to us that you have seen our sincerity, and our promise as a nation. And it signals to the world that, without doubt, the Philippines has begun to take flight as a nation determined to make permanent the positive transformation it enjoys today,” he said.

Original article is published at Philippine Daily Inquirer on October 13, 2014.

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Sorsogon stude wins 2013 World Food Day Poster-Mosaic making contest

PILI, Camarines Sur, Oct. 7 (PIA) — Gemini D. Detera, a 12-year old Grade 6 pupil from Sorsogon Pilot School will represent Bicol region national on-the spot mosaic-making contest slated on October 11 in Manila after besting 12  other contenders during the 2013 Regional World Food Day poster-mosaic making contest held at the Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Field Unit library, here.

The competition formed part of the celebration of the World Food Day 2013 evolving on the theme: “Sustainable food systems for food security and nutrition.”

It aims to raise the awareness of the children on the importance of a sustainable food system should look like, emphasizing an ideal collaboration amongst the stakeholders and the available resources.

DA Bicol regional executive director Abelardo Bragas lauded the participants and their coaches for coming up with distinctive ways of promoting the theme by using the indigenous agricultural materials like corn kernels, rice, palay, weeds, and other grains in putting a tangible image to their artworks.

“I really admire the creativity of young minds. The way they conceptualize the messages of sustainability through their mosaic is really commendable. This is also one way of appreciating DA’s other programs such as the promotion of organic farming and the Gulayan sa Paaralan”, also being pushed by the national government to sustain food in the countryside,”  Bragas stated.

John Reynold Brioso of Iriga North Central School bagged the second place and was accompanied by his coach, Marites Cabaltera while Froilan C. Villar of Magarao Central School grabbed the 3rd place. His coach, Reynaldo Albino, including other winning coaches was also given certificates and cash prize.
Detera will be joined by her coach Imelda Dellosa as she tries to beat national competitors on Friday during the national competition.  The Board of Judges will select the five (5) best mosaics among the 17 regional participants. The winning mosaics will be displayed at the DA, Department of Education (DepEd) and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) offices and will be used as designs for the 2013 Christmas cards.

The said competition was opened to all Grades IV to VI elementary pupils from any public and DepEd-accredited private elementary schools. Winners to the national level have gone through the elimination process at the school and district levels.

Every year, the World Food Day is celebrated around the world in commemoration of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 1945. DA joins other organizations in the celebration to push a common objective of promoting food security especially in the countryside.

DA’s primary mission is to help the national government in putting in place programs that would contribute to the achievement of alleviating poverty and to promote sustainable economic growth by raising the awareness of the community and its stakeholders. (MAL/LSM-PIA5/Camarines Sur)

The original article is published at Philippine Information Agency on October 7, 2013.

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Suweco mini-hydropower plant in Sorsogon starts operations

This is the western side of Cawayan river relative to the Cawayan Bridge.

This is the western side of Cawayan river relative to the Cawayan Bridge. Upper Cawayan is somewhere on the left side of the mountain on the background.

MANILA – Sunwest Water and Electric Co (Suweco) Inc has completed tests and commissioning of its new mini-hydropower plant in Sorsogon.

Jose Silvestre M. Natividad, Suweco president, last week said the company’s 600-kilowatt Cawayan Upper mini-hydropower plant is up and running.

“The power plant started to generate and distribute power to Sorsogon II Electric Cooperative (SORECO II) in mid-August,” he said.

The plant can generate 2.786 gigawatts per hour a year and is located in Barangay Guinlajon, Sorsogon City.

The Cawayan Upper mini-hydropower project is a joint venture between Suweco and SORECO II.

With the commissioning of the facility, Suweco already has three operational mini-hydropower plants with a total installed capacity of 4.2 megawatts. The two other plants are in Catanduanes.

Suweco’s 8-megawatt Villasiga1 hydropower project in Bugasong, Antique is also nearing completion and is expected to be commissioned by end of this year.

Suweco is part of the Sunwest Group of Companies, which is led by Legazpi-based entrepreneur and businessman Elizaldy S. Co.

The original article is published at Interaksyon on September 16, 2013.

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GUBAT, Sorsogon – A congressman here has included burials in his pork barrel menu.

According to the Department of Budget and Management’s (DBM) website, Representative Deogracias Ramos Jr., a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), used P6.1 million of public funds for social services in the nine-town second district of Sorsogon.

The projects included burials, food aid, medical aid, dental aid and transportation fare for supposed indigents in Ramos’ district.

The DBM said Gubat, Ramos’ hometown, got the biggest slice of the pie—P1.5 million.

Ramos, reached for comment, insisted that the fund went directly to the beneficiary local government units and did not pass through his hands.

The other towns that also received money through Ramos’ pork for supposed social services are Matnog, Bulusan, Irosin, Bulan, Sta. Magdalena, Juban and Prieto Diaz.

Ramos said his pork went directly to mayors and barangay officials in his district and were spent on constituents’ needs, which included burials.

Ramos said that a portion of his pork was spent by mayors to pay for the needs of constituents, like food and transportation. The pork funds had been divided to cover expenses for food, transportation and medical needs, he said.

He said that the P30,000 in burial assistance that was listed as expenses from his pork is also part of allotments made by mayors.

The total amount of pork that the budget department released in January to Ramos reached P35 million.

The LP legislator’s pork was also spent on projects for the Philippine General Hospital and East Avenue Medical Center, two medical institutions that are hundreds of kilometers away from Ramos’ district, for poor patients and medical equipment.

Ramos’ pork was also spent on livelihood projects for farmers implemented by the Department of Agriculture, scholarship programs at the Bicol University campus in Gubat and some infrastructure projects.

Original article is published at Philippine Daily Inquirer on August 31, 2013.
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