Saturday, February 2, 2013

Alaminos Engineered Kawayan or Manipulated Project?

By Arian Bermas 

One of the allegations stipulated in the over 300-page complaint against Alaminos City Mayor Hernani Braganza and other City officials is on the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR)-funded trailblazing Hundred Islands (HI) Engineered Kawayan (E-Kawayan) project.
 PAGCOR’s grant amounting to Php31 million has already been received by the City.
According to the City’s official website, the check was personally picked up by their City Treasurer Shirley Dela Cruz together with the E-Kawayan team led by City Agriculturalist Arceli Talania and City Cooperative Officer Annabelle Hebron from PAGCOR’s Community Relations Service Department.
This amount is reported to cover equipment modernization, human resource development, bamboo nursery establishment, bamboo plantation, and tissue culture laboratory establishment.
 However there is no E-Kawayan project undertaken. As it can be recalled, an official groundbreaking for the planned bigger, better, and fully-functional E-Kawayan facility was held last March 28, 2012 at the Maria Valdez Cornelio Techno-Demo Farm in Brgy. Tangcarang.
 One of the complainants, Brgy. Poblacion Captain Samuel Alcantara maintained that there is no E-Kawayan building constructed in such area.
On one hand, City Administrator Wilmer Panabang claimed that the building located in Brgy. Tangcarang is mainly E-Kawayan project’s phase 1. He insisted that they built the said building to expand their long-existing facility located at Brgy. Bolaney. The Phase 2 is the procurement of machineries, he said.
 Panabang conveyed that once the machineries arrive, the City is said to have a test run within this year. In contrast, Alcantara argued, “...’yong E-kawayan building na sinasabi nilang napatayo..’yon ‘yong dati ng building doon na demo farm, ‘yon din po..” Alcantara said that the City Administrator was referring to the same techno-demo farm where the groundbreaking was held.
 He insisted that no other building except for that techno-demo farm- which is used for vegetable-planting and not for any bamboo production-related activity- is erected in that site up to this day.
 Furthermore, one of the major goals of the E-Kawayan project is to mass-produce high quality armchairs to address the requirement of the public schools in the entire city, then of the rest of the province, and even of the entire country eventually, Panabang said.
 As of the moment, the City Administrator said that their production was able to supply only one institution so far- the San Vicente Day Care Center. In addition, in an article posted on the City website, “…Braganza said that “through PAGCOR’s funding, we can further develop the existing bamboo industry in the Ilocos Region, and eventually create new business and job opportunities in Pangasinan.” Close to 10,000 constituents of Alaminos City and nearby municipalities will directly benefit from the project.” However, after about a year of the groundbreaking, only a little more than a dozen is said to have been employed in the mini facility in Brgy. Bolaney, said Panabang; seemingly worse though, one of the workers in the mentioned facility shared that there just four of them working in the multi-million project.

 Alaminos City Accountant shuns media 
By Arian Bermas

 “A lack of transparency results in distrust and a deep sense of insecurity,” stated by the revered Dalai Lama. Well, the mentioned saying seems to illustrate well the response of the City of Alaminos Accountant Emelyn C. Acosta towards the media.
 As it has been previously reported, a group of media went to interview the said city government employee to get her side with regards to the alleged anomaly involving a lot of public funds.
 However, Acosta refused to answer and all the more so, directed the watchdogs to the City Administrator Wilmer Panabang.
 There appeared to be no issue with having an interview with the City Administrator as well but as the journalists noted, what other reason could the City Accountant have for refusing to answer the issue herself? Besides, the inquiry was said to be mainly about the cash advances- which were allegedly unliquidated- and even the laymen know that Acosta being the City Accountant is the number one “go-to-person” regarding such issue. Some of the issues that the City Accountant could’ve explained are about the intelligence funds worth more than Php13.5 million said to have been given to City Chief of Police Supt. Rolie Saltat in 2010 which- as according to the complaint- remains to be unliquidated, likewise, an over Php5 million given to Lyndon Millan, a high ranking official of the City Public Order and Safety Office, who is now detained for killing his brother.
 In addition, Acosta should have answered the allegation that the complaint also bears on the subject of the City being unable to comply with the Commission on Audit (COA) Annual Audit report.
 For one, the City has been said to have failed in presenting fair financial statements as well as in conducting a Physical Inventory of its Property, Plant and Equipment valued at more than Php400 million. If there are no irregularities in the Alaminos City government then every employee shall be more than willing to supply the public all the necessary information- in the best way possible- through the media people. As the complainants affirmed, if the City’s operations are clean then any investigation shall be beyond welcome. Now, is the City really heading the “matuwid na daan”?

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