The whole third district of Albay may soon experience a flood-free area now initially being enjoyed by Ligao city as a result of the “standard-built and graft-less” infrastructure projects in flood control.
Rep. Fernando Gonzalez (LP, 3rd District, Albay), one of President Aquino’s leading allies in his “tuwid na daan” advocacy, said projects built according to the programs of work in Ligao City have prevented it from being hit by floods now because the dikes he built can sustain strong floods that residents usually encountered in the past.
“We now have strong dikes all over flood-prone areas built during the past two years and dikes that could withstand strong floods during rainy season,” said the former governor-turned-congressman who is popularly known for his strong advocacy for a straight path or transparency.
Gonzalez lamented that normally-built dikes in his district last only for a year or until floods hit the affected areas, adding that funding for flood control every year merely goes to repair of damaged projects.
“Hopefully, in the next three years we will finally free the whole of the third district from floods. The usually flooded Libon town, known as Albay’s rice granary, is now safeguarded by at least 30 percent reliable flood control projects,” said Gonzalez in an interview over the week.
The third district is composed of the towns of Polangui, Oas, Libon, Guinobatan, Pioduran and Jovellar and Ligao City where Gonzalez was mayor for many years.
“My pork barrel funds, including the regular funds under my district engineering office, are transparent and their application are available in my Facebook account, complete with information,” the lawmaker said.
“I hate dredging projects because these are extremely graft-ridden. When I was governor (2004-2007), we found out that only 25 percent of the indiscriminately-funded billions-worth Mayon dredging projects were implemented by the DPWH,” Gonzales added.
He said that in Guinobatan town, he was surprised when a P12-million fund was poured in 2008 for dredging on a dry land despite the presence of many rivers.
“I guess, the DPWH was creating additional rivers to accommodate more floods,” joked the lawmaker.
Gonzales, who is on his second term as congressman, lamented that his district had been enjoying at least P300 million annually in flood control projects, locally and nationally-funded from various agencies, but these projects are unreliable.
He said he can only boast for projects implemented by his district engineering office under his watch where plans and non-bloated programs of work, he said, are strictly prepared according to specific standards and implemented accordingly.
“My district engineer or any engineers cannot engage in monkey business because I do not ask for a single centavo even if a contractor has an extra allocation for me called the ‘SOP’,” Gonzales claimed.
He said his supposed SOP, the generic for kickback, simply goes back to the project.
SOP stands for the standard operating procedure, which reportedly varies from a minimum of 15 percent to 50 percent, depending on the type of project.
The congressman recalled that his district became a beneficiary of the P374-million Albay calamity fund released last year by the DPWH regional office.
But during its pre-engineering stage of the calamity projects alone, they were already tainted with corruption, making Gonzales wonder where gutsy officials got the nerve to sabotage the President’s much-vaunted “tuwid na daan” policy.
The P374-million fund, according to him, was released in December 2011 and even with the absence of programs of work and plans, the DPWH, under Regional Director Danilo Dequito, allegedly decided to have the projects bid out during a strongly contested negotiated bidding on December 27, 2011.
He said he wrote Dequito on Dec. 23, 2011 about his strong opposition to the hasty implementation, warning about the glaring violations of the Procurement Reform Act.
According to documents obtained, Asst. Regional Director Jesus Salmo had written on Dec. 9, 2011 selected few contractors inviting them for the simplified negotiated bidding on the clustered P374-million fund in the absence of calamity justification.
Gonzales said the hasty implementation was resorted merely to avoid the lapse of the period of the fund’s disposal.
But Gonzalez said the invitation was mere for a show or “moro-moro” that many of the contractors who did not attend were even awarded projects while an absent contractor was declared a losing bidder twice.
He said the P374-million scandal was ordered investigated by President Aquino but he has no idea now about the result of the probe.
In his defense, Dequito said his efforts to facilitate the project had the authority from the DPWH secretary.
Gonzales lamented that during the implementation of the P374-million fund, he had the opportunity to conduct inspection of some of the projects and found many of them having poor quality.
He said he confronted one of the contractors he identified as a certain Backy who happened to be in his project site, only to be told, “Cong, 30 percent po ang kompromiso dito (Cong, 30 percent is the compromised SOP here).”(PNA)