Anti-corruption group linked

Anti-corruption group linked
P 20-billion irrigation projects to 2010 polls

Manila, Philippines–Rabid critics of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Friday said the ambitious P 20-billion irrigation rehabilitation of projects earmarked by the Office of the President for 2009 and 2010 was part of the administration’s grand plan to make money to fund the electoral campaign of Palace favored bets in the 2010 national elections.

In a press statement, the left-wing fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the allotment of P 20-billion of taxpayers’ money for rehabilitation of irrigation systems all over the country was the first in Philippine history, and the implementation will be timed near, during and immediately after the 2010 national elections.

“All of the sudden the government is now thinking of releasing P 20 billion for the repair of damaged irrigation facilities all over the country. Something fishy is going here,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

The Pamalakaya leader added: “This is grand money making scheme in the offing. It seems the government is now preoccupied with the quick releases of billions of taxpayers’ money in preparation for 2010 general elections.

According to Hicap, the national government intends to spend between P 12 billion to P 20 billion to rehabilitate irrigation areas serving 290,000 hectares of farm land this year and next year under the GMA Rice Program.

GMA Rice Program Director Francisco Malabanan said the rehabilitation of existing irrigation facilities will cost the government between P 6 billion to P 10 billion. According to Malabanan, in 2006, irrigation facilities serving about 368,000 hectares were identified for rehabilitation. This year, there were 290,000 hectares left to rehabilitate.

Malabanan said the rehabilitation of existing irrigation systems will cost the government
P 60,000 per hectare and this will be the priority of the government, since setting up new irrigation systems will cost the government between P 600,000 to P 800,000 per hectare.

At present, a total of 1.3 million hectares of farm land are currently served by the irrigation facilities of the National Irrigation Authority.

“After the fertilizer fund scam, the hybrid rice scam, swine cam and the vegetable scam, the Office of the President and its money making lieutenants in and out of Malacañang are now orchestrating the irrigation rehabilitation scam for the 2010 polls,” Pamalakaya said.

“P 20 billion is P 20 billion, and Malacañang has the power to dispose it and channel the entire if not 40 to 60 percent of the fund for the election campaign of its presidentiable, vice-presidentiable, senatorial candidates down to the local levels,” the group added.

Last year, the government spent P 9.52 billion for the rehabilitation of irrigation systems covering 142,255 hectares of farm land and constructed new irrigation facilities covering an additional 20, 353 hectares of agricultural areas. #

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