New unwitting conspirators
By Ermin Garcia Jr.
THE “P1.5M Onor-onors” have the honor of being the first line of conspirators in Dagupan Mayor Benjie Lim’s “value engineering” schemes, the hospital scheme being the latest.
Now comes the second line. Mr. Lim surreptitiously schemed to drag the unsuspecting members of the city’s Local Development Council (LDC) to the P50 million hospital racket.
The members of the LDC, composed mainly of barangay kapitans, heads of civic, religious and business clubs, etc. voted “unanimously” last Thursday to allot an additional P10 million (making the total appropriation a whooping P30M) to start the construction of the hospital this year. The new addition now commits the city to the project and ensure the payment of kickbacks from the project. What Mr. Lim didn’t tell the LDC members is the fact that the P10 million he attempted to solicit initially from two senators can no longer be realized because of the strict guidelines already being imposed by the PNoy government regarding the use of the pork barrel of senators and congressmen. Without the feasibility study and details of the work program of the hospital project, he can’t start the construction. To make up for that lost “opportunity”, he has turned to the LDC members to bear the brunt of justifying the needed P10 million for the project to the city council without looking at any plan except to take his word as gospel truth. And as expected, the clueless LDC members endorsed it blindly!
With the LDC resolution, Mr. Lim’s “P1.5 M onor-onors” in the city council are now expected (and excited!) to vote for it unanimously. Why do I get the nasty feeling that the onor-onors’ votes will mean another P1.5 million in their pockets? Well, if a P5 million project can be transformed into a P50 million project with the wink of an eye, my bet is there is another “cash delivery” at the expense of the LDC members who I suspect will get nothing being “honorable citizens and civic leaders. “
And when the onor-onors and the mayor are finally charged by the Ombudsman for corruption, guess who they will point to as the main culprit? Why, the members of the LDC, of course! At the end of the day, the members of the LDC would likely find themselves hanging their heads in shame after their names are added to the roster of the shameless and notorious of Dagupan but not until the mayor, the onor-onors and the contractor shall have laughed their way to the bank!
Kung ayaw niyong sumabit, huwag kayong magpagamit.
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STOP THE P50 M HOSPITAL. There are 50 million reasons why Dagupan Mayor Benjie Lim should dump his ridiculous and anomalous P50 million bid for a hospital to house 24 beds for pregnant women, and instead find better use for even just a quarter of that sought fund!
But let me just cite four for now, for the benefit of the LDC members.
The very first is the demolition of the Juan Guadiz elementary School impervious to the serious lack of classrooms in the city, to give way to the darn hospital. Worse, the city must spend for the construction of new set of classrooms in another site instead of spending for additional rooms. (Mr. Lim’s proposal is a double whammy deal – build an expensive hospital to force the construction of new school buildings! Nayarin talaga!).
Then there is the recent finding of the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) that the Pugaro Integrated School is one of the schools with the poorest-serving hygienic facilities in the country. The absence of efficient hygienic facilities in schools is the source of many illnesses that befall children and if the PIS is an indication of the level of facilities in the city’s schools, Mr. Lim should prioritize this concern instead of that hospital that the city needs like a hole in the head.
Then consider the additional huge financial burden that the planned hospital will impose on the city’s funds annually for operations and maintenance. Yet the city could provide better and extensive health care by providing annual PhilHealth memberships to all indigent families in the city. The membership will ensure quality healthcare from the Region 1 medical Center and all private hospitals in the city, to thousands instead of just providing a birthing place for 24 expectant mothers in Mr. Lim’s grand hospital.
Not least of all, why spend even P1 million for a 24-bed hospital when the national government is ready to fund the 300-bed expansion of the Region 1 Medical Center in Dagupan with no obligation to the city? This is being made possible by Rep. Giina de V!
After knowing all these and we see Mr. Lim will still insisting on his P50 million hospital with the help of the LDC and the “P1,5 M onor-onors”, then he can’t be more obvious about his real agenda - to milk the city dry!
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CONTROLLING THE WATER. Before the province’s lawmakers and mayors begin providing funds and directing the elevation of street levels by a meter or so to keep access roads free from floods, it’d help them to first take a quick refresher course on the basics about water from environment lawyer Tony Oposa Jr.
In his PDI article last August 19, he reminded his readers: “Many reasons have been given: improper drainage, improper garbage disposal, wrong (or no) land-use planning, rapid climate change, etc. Those are all correct. But the bottom line of why there is flooding is really quite simple: Excess water has nowhere to go.” Hence the solution to flooding is Give the excess “water a place to go.”
So by simply elevating and paving street levels and access roads for people without first developing “passage” for the floodwater will only exacerbate flooding and compound flooding levels. Note that in Dagupan, new drainage systems were put in place and roads were elevated but obviously the system plan simply took into account a capacity to handle minimal amount of rainfall that would fall on the streets. And since the planners and contractors forgot to “give excess water a place to go,” it should not have come as a surprise for disaster after disaster to occur when excessive rainfall poured. Likewise, in areas where roads were elevated, residents in nearby areas suddenly found their homes flooded knee-deep high.
So, first things first. Atty. Oposa suggests that the flow of floodwater be tracked then construct or identify existing rainwater catchment ponds, reservoirs and lakes even before thinking of elevating anything! This solution is based on the principle that water seeks its own level, meaning it goes down to the lowest level.
“The government should therefore find vacant spaces, especially in low-lying areas, and excavate the land and turn it into ponds, reservoirs and lakes so that excess water will have a place to go,” is his suggestion. Then build direct floodwater passage to these ponds, reservoirs and lakes. (Cultivated ponds and lakes make good sources of food as well).
While monsoon rains that fall for days will inevitably submerge towns and cities, the presence of these will delay the occurrence of a certain massive flooding and will save lives.
Surely engineers can help their respective communities adopt this strategy even before government steps in to compound their problems with its knee jerk solutions.