Press Release
September 22, 2010


After DENR budget hearing

Q: On dredging contract...

DRILON: ...extensively on the matter of dredging. The report of the DENR indicates that a lot of our rivers in the major urban centers are polluted--Paranaque River, San Juan River, Marikina River, Pasig River and Meycauayan River. There are ongoing rehabilitations for these rivers, including a P5 billion dredging of Pasig River which is to be completed next month. The program calls for the increase in depth from 4 to 6 meters, and expanding the navigational lane from 40 to 60 meters. We are asking for an update of the completion schedule as it is supposed to be completed next year. The dredging is sourced out of a P5 billion loan from a Belgian company which also won the dredging for the Laguna Lake for P18 billion. The DENR secretary expressed the view that he will not implement the loan agreement and start the project unless certain corrections are made because to him, the dredging of Laguna Lake is 'technically flawed.' It is technically flawed because it does not include the reforestation of the Marikina Watershed. Without the reforestation of the Marikina Watershed, the Napindan Channel will be again silted in 5 years, and therefore the P18 billion will go down the drain after 5 years. The second condition that he imposed is that there must be a third party monitoring for the progress of this project and one of the end-result should be a final delineation of the boundaries of the Laguna Lake. All of this should be undertaken, according to the secretary, without any increase in the cost. The cost of the project is P18, 522,761,120. Whether or not the project started, we are already committed to pay P318 million in commitment and management fees. I repeat, the government will already pay P318 million even if there is not a single cubic meter of waste dredged from the Laguna Lake.

What is, however, a source of query and a source of inquiry, is the fact that we discovered that from Feb. 18, 2010 to Feb. 26, 2010--or a period of 1 week--P1,324,000,000 was released through SAROs by the previous administration to desilt, dredge and re-channel rivers in provinces where rivers allegedly exist. I would repeat, P1, 324,000,000 was released to 8 provinces for dredging of the rivers.

These are:

Romblon - P370 million
Albay - P302 million
Tacloban City - P160 million
Antique - P145 million
Biliran - P120 million
Butuan - P80 million
Catanduanes - P80 million
Pampanga - P62.5 million

So in 8 provinces, there was a total of P1.324 billion released just before the elections to dredge the rivers in these provinces. We all know that dredging is a rich source of corruption because it is very difficult, if not impossible, to monitor accomplishments in dredging. You cannot measure how deep the dredging went. We will be monitoring closely the P18.5 billion of the Laguna Lake. We are not necessarily opposed to this project, but we want to make sure that it is properly done. We support the effort of Secretary Paje to insist that the technical flaws in this planned dredging would be corrected before we start the project. We will continue the hearings of DENR on Oct. 7.

Q: Yung P1.324 billion actual releases.

DRILON: They are covered by SAROs.

Q: What can you surmise from that?

DRILON: To me, this was clearly used in the election.

Q: Was it used in the election?

DRILON: Well it was released before the ban.

Q: inaudible

DRILON: I am sorry. We will go deeper and dig deeper into this. We will find out who are responsible to this. But this is based on the records of the DBM. These were covered by SAROs.

Q: Malalaman ba natin kung merong actual dredging?

DRILON: We have to check that. (reading a list of rivers. Please refer to list)

Q: Isang araw lang ni-release?

DRILON: Isang araw lang. Feb. 18 2010. In one day in Romblon, they released, per our records, P370 million for desilting and dredging of rivers. In Albay, just for one day, Feb. 18, P302 million. In Catanduanes, on Feb. 18, P80 million. In Pampanga, Feb. 18, P62.5 million.

Q: Yung sa local government?

DRILON: The releases were done what is called DEO. Is it District Engineering Office of DPWH? So that must be it.

Q: Yung release ng fund di covered ng ban?

DRILON: I have only the records of the releases. On the implementation, I do not know.

Q: Sa record, sinong highest official ang may demand.

DRILON: It's a SARO, so I do not know who signed it. For example, P25 million for desilting and deepening of Cantingas River, San Fernando Romblon, SARO No. A-10-01269. So I do not know, but there is a SARO number here.

Q: Yung Cantingas batis po yun eh. Hindi pwede i-dredge kasi dire-diretso tubig dun eh.

DRILON: Ewan ko basta nakalagay dito eh. Ang nilagay dun P25 million e. Basta binabasa ko lang sa inyo ang description s SARO.

Q: Mag-investigate ang committee?

DRILON: I do not want to say yes because I do not have time yet to go over and investigate this. As you can see I hear every day. I have no time yet.

Q: inaudible

DRILON: I will ask. Yes, I will ask. Maybe they do not even know this.

Q: Belgian company din yung involved sa 8 provinces?

DRILON: Hindi. This is locally funded, this is not funded from loans, this is from the General Appropriations Act.

Q: inaudible

DRILON: Of course. Why was there such a rush to release P370 million in one day to Romblon, to desilt and deepen these rivers, which are even free-flowing rivers. Why was there such a hurry to release P380 million to Albay on Feb. 18... (reading the list)

Q: Link sa election?

DRILON: The circumstantial evidence in law is there. There is reason to believe that it was not used for the purpose intended.

Q: On Puno's resignation.

DRILON: That's a welcome development to me that he will submit his letter of resignation, because the President is certainly burdened by the findings of the IIRC and now the revelation of Bishop Cruz on Usec. Puno. That's a welcome development and that should give President Aquino an opportunity to act decisively on this raging issue for the public.

Q: Pwede pa ba siya um-attend ng investigation kung sakaling wala na siya sa DILG?

DRILON: Yes. He can be summoned.

Q: On Mar Roxas appointment.

DRILON: He is an economic adviser, in the same manner that I can be an adviser. That is not a position in government. It is a description of the role. He advises the President on economic affairs. There is no appointment. You cannot conclude that he is called an economic adviser that he is appointed. By the way, just on that point, the appointment of a consultant is not covered by the one-year ban. But I'm not saying that Senator Roxas is appointed as consultant. The economic adviser does not mean that he has any appointment, nor even a contract. It is just a description of his role vis-à-vis the President.

Q: He's acting on an unofficial capacity?

DRILON: Yes. He is not a public official. He could have been part of the business delegation, and act as an adviser to the President. Adviser on a generic case, not as a presidential adviser in technical sense. He has not been appointed as adviser on the technical sense.

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