‘Caretaker’ of Dinagat Islands backed vs critics
MANILA, Philippines — Akbayan Partylist Representative Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao is “the best thing to happen to Dinagat Islands,” a lawmaker said on Friday.
Ifugao Representative Teddy Brawner Baguilat said this as he threw support for Bag-ao who has been the subject of criticisms after being chosen as caretaker of the Dinagat Islands.
In a statement, Baguilat said that Bag-ao’s appointment came as a “blessing” to Dinagat Islands which suffered neglect after its earlier representative, Ruben Ecleo Jr., was dropped from the House roll after being convicted of graft.
Both Baguilat and Bag-ao are members of the Kaya Natin movement which also backed Bag-ao’s recent appointment.
He felt that the Akbayan lawmaker’s appointment will give Dinagat Islands, one of the poorest in the country, access to the development funds it is entitled to.
The Ifugao representative further dismissed allegations that Bag-ao purchased sports utility vehicles using the province’s funds, saying that what the new caretaker of the Dinagat Islands bought were actually multi-cabs which were “appropriate for [the area’s] rugged terrain.”
These vehicles, meant for government use in visiting constituents in far-flung areas, were in fact part of the projects funded by the province’s priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel, he added.
Bag-ao has received criticisms following the budget department recent release of P140 million in pork barrel for Dinagat Islands but Baguilat said that the PDAF “by itself is not necessarily evil… [as] it does level the playing field [for] districts with smaller internal revenue allotments and low voting populations.”
It was “evil” if the funds were being used for “projects like market-to-my-farm roads instead of farm-to-market roads, he said.
“If the pork means that the national government funds will be left totally to the discretion of the representatives, then it must be scrapped. There should be a strict menu of what development projects really are,” added Baguilat.
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