Palace probe on rock netting projects sought

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TABUK CITY, Kalinga – Former Jocel C. Baac urged President Rodrigo Duterte to investigate the alleged massive corruption involved in the implementation of billions worth of rock netting projects in the Cordillera, except Baguio City and Apayao, that have resulted to the waste of funds that are supposedly earmarked for the government’s priority projects.

In an open letter to the Chief Executive, the former governor stated that the actual cost of the rock netting projects is only 50 percent, including the allowed mark up of contractors, compared to their estimated budget computed by the public works department.

Worst, he further alleged that the remaining 50 percent of the overall project cost goes to some influential lawmakers that have established links to the Office of the President, their allies and some officials and personnel of the public works departments that allowed them to be branded by observers as ‘congressmen mosquiteroes as only half of the estimated project cost will actually go to the programmed project of rock netting which is purposely to mitigate the occurrence of erosion and landslides in slide-prone areas.

Baac, who was a 3-term governor of Kalinga, led the province in garnering 5 consecutive Seal of Good Local Governance citations from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) which gave emphasis to good financial housekeeping in the provincial government. He also serves the Chairman of the Regional Development Council (RDC) in the Cordillera from 2013-2016 where he advocated for good financial housekeeping among local governments.

Baac claimed that the aforesaid projects have been observed as alleged waste of public funds because hundreds of millions of pesos are being used to cover a few meters of roads and mountain slopes instead of being used to pave hundreds of kilometers of roads or instead put up sufficient number of isolation units in the different parts of the country purposely for COVID patients as the same is the need of the times.

More, importantly, he pointed out that the rock netting projects are not environmentally-friendly because it actually prevents the growth of shrubs and trees on the slopes that serve as one of the natural erosion controls that abate the occurrence of landslides.

Moreover, he disclosed that the design and programs of work of the rock netting projects are also considered to be very expensive as technical personnel claim that the materials used are imported but upon the conduct of closure inspection, the aforesaid materials used were proven to be ordinary and locally manufactured.

“We urged you to have these projects investigated for they are glaring examples of misuse of funds,” Baac stated in his letter.

He lauded Apayao Rep. Elias C. Bulut, Jr. for choosing not to be part of the alleged corruption scheme by not allowing the implementation of the highly questionable rock netting projects in his province while other Cordillera provinces were given substantial allocations for similar projects with Benguet getting a lion’s share with P10 billion worth of rock netting projects.

As a former governor and now a concerned citizen of Kalinga, Baac had always supportive of the present administration’s initiatives to rid the government of corruption. He was also amazed by the success of the President’s anti-drug campaign and his efforts to rid the public works department of officials and employees who are in cahoots with their benefactors in defrauding the government of billions of pesos of public funds that are supposedly used for the implementation of quality projects for the people.

He emphasized that it is the wish of the people of Kalinga that officials and employees involved in corruption will be held liable for their wrongdoings and that it is unfortunate that their province is being used by some self-styled syndicates to pursue their established corruption schemes as they are not in favor of the same as it will surely tarnish the overall image of Kalinga and the reputation of the present and future generations of inhabitants. By HENT

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