PERHAPS EVEN JESUS CHRIST can forgive us this indulgence when we write about matters of the world even as we celebrated His birthday in Bethlehem yesterday.
But our situation is very dire and even Jesus Himself got mad when his “temple was converted into a den of thieves” in the New Testament. When the disciples doubted and deserted Him. There is such a thing as “righteous indignation” even during peaceful Holidays.
With Bohol in a state of disaster, we expected a calm, decisive leader. A “Crisis Manager” that shows solid direction and a Game Plan, not one who foments fear, insults the ability of Boholanos to live in dignity while in poverty and powerlessness and then “appear on various national media” looking like a cry baby, threatening now and then subsequently begging the national government….. or else.
For starters, there are at least five provinces lashed violently by “Odette”- Leyte, Negros province, Surigao, Cebu and Negros. Yet, did you hear of any other governor, we have not, about “warning” the national government about massive looting and breakdown of order?
Sure, there may have been some petty thievery and of course the robbery at the NIA. But which province did not have a record of the same- but did they ask the army to come in? It is also an insult to our local authorities and the military to be depicted as unable to uphold the duty they were worn to keep. To maintain peace and order.
It seems that nine years as a congressman and three years as governor have not taught Gov. Arthur Yap- who grew up in metropolitan Manila ways- that an overwhelming majority of Boholanos are God-fearing and community-conscious people.
Many typhoons and a great earthquake later, most Boholanos indeed do ask, even beg and borrow- but will resist the urge to take what is not theirs, thriving instead on bananas and vegetable leaves until help comes along. Now, at least a major national newspaper The Philippine Star headlined Bohol was on the verge of a looting orgy. Do you see that around for certain? We do not.
Or is he just projecting his “own fear” about what people would normally do- to his knowledge- in a stressful situation? Did this instead “project” an image of a Bohol that is running out of food and without options to survive this attack of Nature? And had caused the unintended result of causing “panic” and subsuming “a state of lawlessness” even before it happened? Was this the right approach?
Over years of nature-driven tragedies, this is the first time we heard of a Governor telling the whole world that the “province” has spent its last funds. We challenge the department of budget and management or its equivalent” to publish in the Capitol website the approved General Appropriation Act (provincial budget) for the Fiscal Year 2021, a year-to-date utilization of funds to the day before the Supertyphoon struck.
Likewise, we challenge them under oath (and consequent perjury” ) the true “state of calamity funds”, that none of the portions of the budget or “savings” could now be re-aligned for this emergency, now that the president has declared all five provinces” under a state of emergency”? If the Governor would have signed the Biggest Provincial Budget for 2022 (enhanced by the so-called “Mandanas Ruling”) soonest, the province would also have millions of pesos available within a matter of days. January 1, 2022, is one week away.
In short, we also need an accounting of the “disaster funds” and the “contingency funds” of the province, and such a pity the public cannot demand an itemization of the huge “intelligence funds”- going to zero before the year ends?
On social media and private exchanges, some Boholanos are questioning whatever happened to the “close ties” between the governor and senator Bong” The Little President” Go. Just fair-weather friends? Or did President Rodrigo Duterte not feel peeved and blackballed by being blackmailed with “looting and disorder” if national help did not come? Just asking.
The harder questions to answer would be -what “disaster” in Bohol occurred before “Odette” to deplete the “disaster” funds of Capitol and upon what occurrence of events did the “contingency funds” used as a matter of course, become now unavailable?
The call for help from the private sector especially from the NCR area is seen with jaundiced eyes by some jaded observers given the track record of the lack of transparency of dealings that the Capitol has been castigated by both critics and well-meaning citizens and media throughout the first three years of the Yap administration, Many donors have conceded that instead of depositing direct to the provincial government depository account, they would rather course the donations(especially cash) through the Red Cross, Caritas and some trusted NGO.
Whether we like it or not, one will reap what one has sown.
On national TV, Governor Yap declared the credit rating of Bohol from two government banks like Landbank and the DBP is good for about P5-Billion as shown in their previous loan approvals centered on the “water projects”. He said he tried to pressure the banks to convert these approved water loans into “disaster loans” and bitched why the banks take too long to take action.
Our little understanding of banking shows “disaster loans” do not have the benefit of what “water loans” have: the “risk” equity contribution of the LGUs and the “identified source of loan repayment” in these loans. Bankers are hard-nosed decision-makers because of their fiduciary relationship with the depositors who own the money they lend to borrowers like the province of Bohol. The two proposals are not of the same “credit risks”.
Likewise, we heard that Gov. Yap had to raise his voice in calling the attention of the DPWH to let private contractors help in the clearing operations on the highway. We know for a fact that previous governors directly met the contractors after a disaster to make the personal request., This time, Yap did not even meet the Boholano contractors. And everybody knows why there is that gap between him and the contractors. Do you know why? Ask the contractors if you are not yet aware.
We repeat our recollection of our Editorial last week asking what kind of equipment was purchased from the PSP-sponsored (about P30-Million ?)Supplemental Budget “for the purpose of maintaining provincial roads”. Where is the list of equipment and were they used in the clearing road- operations?
Then we go back to one of the core problems whenever disaster strikes. Power.
The biggest problem in Bohol continues to be the lack of a land-based power source in the province. The damaged towers connecting the Bohol to Leyte’s geothermal power source can not be fixed within six months, we were told.
Ever since the Power source has always been the root cause of power shutdowns since we do not have a power source based on land here sufficient to supply the 90 current megawatt requirement. The nine-year term of then-Gov Edgar Chatto failed to fast track this need for a land-based power source. Now we continue to pay the very expensive price for its absence.
Bohol would probably get some 10% of power back soon or before the New Year but that is small comfort since full restoration is said to last six months. While it is good that the Tourism in Panglao has not been too affected, physically, we wonder how much profit the resorts will enjoy if they run their own generations with expensive gas ?. Quo vadis?
What we have is just the Power Barge in Tapal, Ubay which can generate 26 mega and the Dampas based Bohol Diesel Plant with 12 mega. This is a far cry from what we need.
Finally, we are not saying Governor Yap had not stretched his influence to enthuse his circle of rich friends in the Manila area to help the province. He has, too, in fairness. The operation at Bohol Wisdom School is a good start though the volume has not gained too much traction yet.
That said- we reiterate the need for a high-ground moral leader who can lead the long road to a Bohol Recovery- one who is not shaken off one’s feet amid the frightening crisis- can turn the right switches on and say things in a most appropriate way at the most proper time.
A true-blue “Crisis Manager” of epic proportion. It is a challenge that can still be met.
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