Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo has appealed to President Benigno Aquino III to release the P480 million balance of the calamity fund that had been earmarked for the repair of infrastructure damaged by Tropical Storm Sendong.

Degamo said in an interview that many Negrenses were spared from the floods in Dumaguete City and Siaton town because the construction of river dikes and river dredging and rechanneling projects undertaken by his administration with the initial release of P480 million last year.

The province had identified projects costing a total of P960 million, to repair the damage wrought by Sendong. The Department of Budget and Management then transmitted the initial P480 million but followed it up with a Negative Special Allotment Release Order, indicating that it was getting back the money. The DBM said the fund release did not follow certain required procedures.

The Commission on Audit also issued a Notice of Disallowance, late last year, on the contracts entered into by the province with the contractors in relation to this fund.

Instead of returning the money, Negros Oriental government instead entered into contracts with contractors for projects totaling P960 million. Degamo said he ordered the disbursement because this was a calamity fund and was meant to protect lives.

Provincial Engineer Franco Alpuerto said the P480 million was paid to the contractors who accomplished 64 percent of the projects listed in the total budget of P960 million.

River dikes measuring 1.5 kilometers long had been set up along the Banica River in Dumaguete, the Ocoy River in Sibulan and in the Siaton River in Siaton town. “If not for these dikes, the monsoon rains would have caused more damage to life and property,” Degamo said.

Degamo blamed the issuance of the Negative Saro on politics, as he was running against the President’s political ally in the May 2013 elections. “This is all politics, I can only see President Aquino pursuing the Tuwid na Daan, but I can’t see it in the people below him,” Degamo said.*AP