Presidential aspirants warn vs use of disaster funds in Mindanao for polls
Following the declaration of a state of calamity over Mindanao due to the power shortage there, two presidential aspirants on Friday warned against the possible use of disaster funds for election purposes.
Liberal Party standard bearer Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who is currently campaigning in provinces in the south, said that while it was President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo’s prerogative to place Mindanao under a state of calamity, the public should monitor how the funds will be used to ease the impact of the power shortage.
“This government has shown its propensity to divert funds for political purposes. The people must make sure that the unscrupulous do not succeed this time,” Aquino said in a statement.
Declaring a state of calamity in Mindanao will allow local government units to use up to 5 percent of their internal revenue allotments (IRA), which are their share of revenues from the national government.
Senator Richard Gordon, another presidential aspirant, also said the government should have laid down its specific plans on how the funds would be spent to address the electric shortage.
“To me pag nag-declare ka ng calamity may panggastos yung mga tao sa mga mayor, gagamitin yung pera sa pulitika (For me if you declare a calamity the people, the mayors will have funds to use for politics),” Gordon told reporters in Santiago City in Isabela province where he is currently campaigning.
“Ano gagawin nila, babayaran nila mga farmer? Babayaran nila ang mga negosyong nalugi? Hindi ko alam gagawin nila sa pera so I’m asking, what does a state of calamity mean when people have brownouts (What will they do, pay the farmers? Pay the businesses that suffered losses? I don’t know what they’ll do with the money, so I’m asking what does a state of calamity mean when people have brownouts),” he said.
Mindanao, which has a 700-megawatt power supply shortfall, is suffering from three to 11-hour blackouts everyday. The brownouts are expected to last until the El Niño phenomenon, which causes low water elevation in hydroelectric plants in Mindanao and other parts of the country, ends in June.
Since Mindanao is not connected to the power grid in Luzon and the Visayas, power plants in the two islands are unable to dispatch excess electricity to Mindanao.
On Thursday, Mindanao Development Authority chairman Jesus Dureza said President Arroyo has approved the recommendation of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) to declare a state of calamity so that local government units can use their calamity funds to remedy or alleviate the power crisis. [See: Arroyo approves state of calamity in Mindanao] – Johanna Camille Sisante and Aie Balagtas See/RSJ, GMANews.TV