Aquino orders Cabinet to explain delayed projects in ARMMBy Ayan Mellejor, Germelina Lacorte
DAVAO CITY, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino ordered his Cabinet on Wednesday, to explain the delay in the implementation of projects funded under the P8.59 billion Transition Investment Plan for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
He also reminded them of their “use it or lose it” agreement before the deadline on June 30.
Speaking before ARMM mayors and governors attending the Conference on Local Governance at the Waterfront Insular Hotel here, Mr. Aquino said he was disappointed to see the May 31 status reports of the responsible departments showing projects which were “not yet started” or “ongoing.”
He said he would have wanted to see a report on their accomplishments.
The Transition Investment Plan included funds for access to potable drinking water for 77 municipalities in the ARMM.
The administration also invested in health infrastructure, core shelter assistance program for the families caught in armed conflict, farm-to-market roads, rehabilitation of roads and bridges and improvement of the rural electrification.
The President pledged to immediately meet with the responsible department officials upon his return to Manila.
He said he would be asking them why most of the projects were not yet implemented.
Among the projects was the P200-million Rural Electrification Program of the Department of Energy (DOE) with the National Electrification Administration as the implementing agency. The project’s completion was supposed to be in October.
“Gusto ko pong matupad ang pinangako ko. Eto hong ibang ‘not yet started’ patapos napo ang iyong second quarter ng 2012; sana ay may maganda silang paliwanag bakit ‘not yet started. May usapan ho kasi kami sa Gabinete: use it or lose it. At, may deadline po yan, June 30 ang tanda ko (I want to fulfill my promise. Are these ‘not yet started’ projects on the verge of completion this second quarter of 2012. Hopefully, they have a good explanation for the ‘not yet started’ projects. We have an agreement in the Cabinet: use it or lose it. And there is a deadline for that, June 30, as I recall),” he said.
Mr. Aquino threatened to give the projects to other departments, which have performed well.
And, in the next budgeting period, Aquino said he would ask department officials about the unfinished projects again.
“Pag tayo nangako, maski sinong Pilipino dapat talagang itaga po nila sa bato, mangyayari po yan (When we promise, any Filipino can etch that in stone, it will happen),” Aquino said.
The President said his administration has been fully supporting reforms in the ARMM by addressing issues and problems in the region.
“Nakasanayan na nga po noon na kapag nabanggit ang ARMM, ang imahen na pumapasok sa isipan ang karamihan ay kaguluhan, marahas at maduming halalan, at mga political na angkan na nagpakasasa sa kapangyarihan habang nagdurusa ang kanilang sinasakupan (Before, when ARMM was mentioned, the image that came to mind was chaotic, violent and dirty elections and politican clans that abused power while their constituents suffered),” he said.
He said because of the reforms, several local government units in the region received the Performance Challenge Fund, for which, his administration allotted P520 million.
The PCF is made available by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) as a set of incentives for local chief executives who comply with the government’s full disclosure policy on the use of public funds, exemplary governance and delivery of basic services.
It is a form of reward to LGUs for helping the government attain its Millennium Development Goals of reducing poverty and improving opportunities to poor households to rise above their current conditions.
Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said 16 ARMM towns were awarded the seal of Good Housekeeping and received P1 million each under the PCF.
Among these were the Maguindanao towns of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Parang, Sultan Kudarat, Mamasapano, Guindulungan, Talayan, Paglat, Sultan Mastura and Datu Saudi Ampatuan and Upi; the Lanao del Sur town of Wao and the Sulu towns of Pandami and Panglima Estino.
Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu said he hoped that the reform agenda in the ARMM would finally erase the tarnished image of the ARMM as a corrupt-ridden place.
“I hope in the coming months, we will have a good number of local government units receiving the seal of good housekeeping,” he said.
“The message of this whole package is we’re interested in making sure that the ARMM works; that we’re interested in improving the lives of people in the ARMM, but it will not succeed if there’s only us,” Robredo said.