Pacquiao vows probe into alleged overpriced slope, flood control projects in Benguet
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Manny Pacquiao assured Benguet residents on Tuesday that he would initiate an investigation into the alleged overpriced slope protection and flood control projects in the province, as cyclones that pass by the area could easily cause landslides.
During his visit to the province, Pacquiao received a petition from the officials and members of the Manny Pacquiao for President Movement (MPPM) calling for a thorough probe into the projects that were funded in 2021 under the term of ACT-CIS party-list Rep. Eric Yap who was the legislative caretaker of Benguet.
Petitioners claimed that rock-netting projects in Benguet — meant to stop landslides — cost twice as the government used to pay. Previous projects cost P12,000 per square meter while recent ones cost P24,000 per square meter.
“Typhoon Maring is not the only reason for the sorry state of our farmers in Benguet,” Pacquiao said in Filipino. “This COVID pandemic has brought a bigger problem, along with opportunistic government officials.”
“A big public works fund was added to Benguet, especially in the first strict. There was an almost nine-fold increase [in funding],” he added. “What puzzles me is why there were still flooding and landslides. It may be a good idea to look into the reason why this problem keeps happening.”
According to him, the public works funding in Benguet rose from P1.929 billion in 2020 to P9.578 billion this year.
Pacquiao was in the province to provide financial assistance to families affected by the recent storms, including Typhoon Maring, which caused landslides in the area. In one landslide, a couple lost three children at the height of the typhoon.
The senator said that he would initiate a probe as chair of the Senate Committee on Public Works.
In a statement shared with the media, the petitioners said that the rock-netting projects were usually the easiest way to siphon off government money because, even if lawmakers would allegedly corner 40 percent of the excess funds, contractors would still get 60 percent.
INQUIRER.net has contacted Rep. Eric Yap to air his side, but he has not yet replied as of posting time.
Yap became the caretaker of Benguet’s legislative district in January 2020, after former Rep. Nestor Fongwan died last December 2019.
This is not the first time Yap was accused of corruption. In December 2020, he was among the lawmakers named by President Rodrigo Duterte with alleged links to corruption, although Duterte also admitted that there was no hard evidence of it.
Yap was allegedly involved in a scheme with some people at the Department of Public Works and Highways in which he exerted his influence to rig an infrastructure project in Benguet.
Yap then denied the accusation, saying that he would willing to resign if the claim could be proven true.
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.