In a sudden change of tune, Vice Governor Rene Relampagos has apologized to Provincial Board (PB) Member Victor Balite after appearing to have “belittled” the latter’s request for transparency on how the province’s P147-million calamity fund for 2021 was spent.
“I did not belittle your request. I am very sorry that you felt belittled, but definitely that was not my intention,” said Relampagos during the PB’s regular session on Tuesday.
“I am also sorry you got insulted but never in my intention that I would want to insult you,” he added.
During the PB’s session two weeks ago, Relampagos brushed aside Balite’s query on how the fund was spent saying that the lawmaker should direct his question to Governor Art Yap and have a “heart to heart” talk with the chief executive.
Balite particularly questioned the lack of details on how much of the fund was spent on COVID-19 response and post-typhoon relief efforts.
Before Relampagos changed his stance, Balite said he was about to gather himself detailed information on the province’s spending from concerned agencies.
Last year, the same calamity fund also raised questions from various sectors after Yap announced that he could no longer provide rice and other food aid to victims of Typhoon “Odette” after his contingency fund ran out.
Yap warned that if no financial aid will be extended by the national government, military and police troops may be needed for deployment to prevent looting because of growing hunger.
Following weeks of public clamor and Balite’s persistent calls for transparency, Relampagos announced how the fund was spent.
In his speech during the PB’s latest session, Relampagos said Bohol had 103.2 million, or 70 percent of the total calamity fund, allocated for disaster risk reduction and management (DDRM).
Meanwhile, P44.2 million, or 30 percent of the fund, was earmarked for the province’s quick response fund.
The 70-30 percent split in the calamity fund allocation is mandated by law.
Of the entire P147-million budget, P128.15 million has been either paid or obligated for payment.
Meanwhile, some P11.4 million of the total calamity fund has yet to be earmarked for procurement. Of the figure, items and services which amount to P5.39 million already have purchase requests, said Relampagos.
“Meaning these have not been obligated or paid but these are with existing purchase request already,” said Relampagos.
Relampagos bared that the largest chunk of the P147-million budget at P105 million was spent on food aid.
“Of this amount, the 70 percent under disaster preparedness would be P60,956,605 while the 30 percent charged to the quick response fund is in the total amount of P44,170,292,” said Relampagos.
A total of P77.98 million of the P105-million food aid fund was spent on rice and food packs as part the government’s COVID-19 relief efforts.
Meanwhile 17.9 million of the same budget was earmarked for food aid to victims of Typhoon “Odette.”
Another P9.2 million was also purchased of rice “under contract agreement” but Relampagos did not specify who received the aid.
For trainings in relation to disaster preparedness, the province spent P1.84 million. The amount covered food and accommodation for trainings and meetings.
A total of P1.7 million was spent for purchasing medicine for TaRSIER 117, the province’s emergency response team.
The province also allocated P4.92 million for dental, medical and laboratory supplies.
For a single Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (PDRRMC) meeting held on July 14, 2021 the province spent P52,000.
Amount spent under maintenance and other operating expenses was pegged at P975,580.
For communication equipment and motor vehicles, the province spent P569,264 and P12.96 million, respectively.
The province also spent P2.4 million for another batch of communication equipment.
For disaster response and rescue equipment, the province allocated P2.99 million.
Balite, who was present during the session, said in an interview that he will still check with concerned provincial government offices to verify Relampagos’ breakdown of the calamity fund usage.
“Mo pada gihapon ko og suwat sa concerned agencies, wala pa ni mahuman. Padayon gihapon na” said Balite.
Balite hoped that the offices which spent the calamity fund would provide him with the breakdown on their expenses and that this would match what Relampagos reported.
The lawmaker nonetheless thanked Relampagos for his report but also asked for a printed and certified copy of the vice governor’s report. (with a report from rt)