Itogon mayor welcomes San Roque probe

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

ITOGON, Benguet -– Mayor Oscar Camantiles welcomed the move of Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño to investigate the wealth share of Barangay Dalupirip from San Roque Dam’s operations.

Camantiles said he is open to the request of Casiño because he said not only Dalupirip is affected but it includes other barangays of the town. The reduction of the wealth share of these barangays annoyed the local chief executive of the municipality.

He added that during a recent press conference he will soon form a technical working group to investigate on the matter.

As a recall, Casiño called on the House Committee on Local Government to investigate a possible corruption because of the abrupt reduction of the national wealth share from San Roque Dam operations to the headwater host – the local government units of Benguet.

Casiño proposed Resolution 2098, directing the committee on local government to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the possible irregularities in the distribution of the national wealth share from the San Roque dam to the hosts.

The resolution stated: “In 2010, the Provincial Government of Benguet sought an increased share from the taxes generated by the operation of the 345-megawatt San Roque multi-purpose dam in San Manuel, Pangasinan, invoking the fact that the water, the main ingredient in power generation, comes from the watersheds of Benguet.”

Benguet Governor Nestor Fongwan said the increase of taxes will be used to implement more development projects within the host communities.

The resolution also revealed that, “In 2007, Governor Fongwan was able to work out a 50-50 sharing of the national wealth tax from the operations of the San Roque dam located within the boundary of Benguet and Pangasinan provinces. The basis of the equal sharing originated from the fact that while the dam is located in San Manuel, Pangasinan, the dam’s reservoir and watershed is hosted by Itogon, Benguet.”

Despite the advocacy of Fongwan for development, officials of Barangay Dalupirip, Itogon revealed a sudden reduction of the village’s share.

Officials of the Barangay passed Resolution 125, series of 2011 on December 3, 2011 that asks Casiño to seek an inquiry on the matter.

“The barangay officials were aghast when they found out that on May 11, 2011, their share for the first quarter of 2011 was a measly P52,279.76 only. This is a sudden reduction of almost 99 percent of the actual quarterly amount ranging from P1,107,000 to P1,108,000 that Dalupirip received in the past years,” read the House resolution.

Leaders of the village sought clarifications from the local and provincial government officials but no answer was given.

“The barangay officials are now in a quandary as to how they shall accomplish the development projects in their area that are dependent on the wealth share and their much smaller internal revenue allotment (IRA) share,” said Casiño.

He added, “The sheer and sudden reduction of the NWTS of the said barangay in Itogon, Benguet is a sore thumb in the current government’s drive to make governance and state finance transparent and graft – free.”

“This matter is a possible case of corruption by state officials involved in the implementation of our country’s tax laws, local government code and in the financial operations of the San Roque Dam. Congress can and should intervene to uncover the real story and in the process come up with remedial legislation for further transparency and accountability,” Casiño said.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on August 08, 2012.

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