Budget insertions for appropriations on the 2019 proposed national budget made top news these past days.
Members of the house of representatives and the Budget Department are pointing fingers who did the possible insertion which bloated the proposed national budget.
Budget insertions when intended for infrastructure projects of congressional districts have become a source of corruption and shady transactions.
We are reminded of a project undertaken in the second district of Albay, the “Regional Port of Pantao” in Libon town which cost the government over P100 million. It is there one can watch the stunning Bicol sunset with a beautiful unobstructed view.
The project was allegedly shrouded in controversy. During its construction and alleged completion, it was the subject of a biting article, first posted HERE and then, again, reposted HERE.
“In 2005, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo inaugurated the project even as it was barely serviceable and nobody intended to use it. (During) That time, the road connecting it to the national highway is not yet fully paved. Yet it has been declared (even before construction) that it is the new ‘regional’ port in Bicol, thereby dislodging Tabaco port.”
The article continued:
“But does the ‘title’ hold any substance? Now, that is the crux of the matter. Pantao port, in physical development, is not a major port. Its level is barely above that of a municipal port. So many secondary ports have superior facilities than Pantao that there is no need to compare it to primary ports. Ideally, the level of regional ports should be equal to primary ports.”
“The port has no cargo-handling facilities befitting a primary port …. when before nobody uses Pantao anyway except for fishing boats and motor bancas to San Pascual, Masbate?). “
“It does not have a container yard or cargo sheds. The port and the access road might not even be secure enough. And the access road is even funny because it has some challenging twists and climbs. “
“It seems they really mean that tractor-trailers with container vans (that sometimes weigh up to 50 tons) should climb it. This is the only regional port in the Philippines I know that lies beyond a mountain range.”
“What was the reason for developing Pantao? (Gov. Joey) Salceda said it is equidistant from Camarines and Albay. Well, Tabaco is not badly placed either and it has access to Camarines Sur through the Tiwi-Sagnay road. I also heard that the cement plant in Camalig, Albay would be nearer to a port. As if Tabaco and Legazpi ports are distant enough.”
“I don’t think shippers will be using Pantao Port as their gateway anytime soon.” The writer made a dire assumption.
“Pantao Port is not even considered part of the Central Nautical Highway (CNH) of the Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH) because it is too distant from the Visayas. [Anyway, those designations are no longer in use currently.]”
“In short it could just end up like a “port to nowhere”. It is not a regional port, hence, a fraud. Yet, paeans and hosannas have already been offered to it. To better cover its true genre, a white elephant, the favorite ‘pet’ of politicians. “
Adding insult to injury, when Typoon Reming ravaged areas of Bicol, the Pantao port was damaged prompting for its repair.
True to the visionary commentary on the post, Pantao is a lingering monument to a failed vision and wasted people’s money. Vessels call on the port and anchor waiting for repair or other reasons not related for its main purpose.
I regularly visit my family in Masbate. From Manila, then in Pilar, Sorsogon, bus takes the RORO to Masbate. Money for Pantao would have made a great improvement for ports in Pio Duran and Pilar.
Job de Castro
At least Pantao is a good space to bike, skate and watch the sunset, or sunrise. Over a hundred million pesos spent was worth it! Libon can organize events with Pantao port as venue, too.
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