A proposal to allocate P140 million to construct two roads in Albay has left tourism officials stunned after being informed by lawmakers that the two projects are actually “roads leading to nowhere.”
During a congressional hearing for the Department of Tourism (DOT) budget, Secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr. appeared flabbergasted as he failed to give a rational response to inquiries about the inclusion of two new Albay road projects under the DOT-Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Convergence Program.
The proposed P140 million funding for the projects appeared to have been deducted from the P150 million proposed initial allocation for the construction of a new access to the Legaspi International Airport and tourist destinations in Sorsogon, popular worldwide for “butanding” (whale shark) sightings.
From the original P150 million in approved funding, the Legaspi airport access road was left with only P50 million, it was learned.
Ako Bicol Partylist Rep. Rodel Batocabe questioned the inclusion of the two road projects, saying that none of these will traverse through tourism destinations.
“One will lead to a Chinese cemetery which cannot qualify as a tourist spot at all,” Batocabe said as he noted that the DOT-DPWH Convergence Program was supposed to implement the Tourism Road Infrastructure Project Prioritization Criteria (TRIPPC).
Under the TRIPPC, funding for road projects with tourism values were to be prioritized in accordance with the innovative bottoms up budgeting system. This method requires all stakeholders, from the barangay up to the provincial level, to approve an infrastructure proposal.
The P150 million Legaspi airport road was placed on top of the list of budgeting priorities under the TRIPPC. On the other hand, the two new roads were nowhere in the list.
Batocabe, chairman of the House Committee on Bicol Recovery, said they discovered the irregularity only after the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) submitted the proposed P2.606-trillion national expenditure program last month.
“I do think the TRIPPC is a very good, laudable project,” said Batocabe. “ But somebody pulled a fast one here.”
The party-list solon aired suspicions that a “syndicate with strong connections” with the DOT-DPWH Convergence Program could be behind the incident.
Original article is published at Manila Bulletin on August 17, 2014.