Will social concerns prevail over greed for infra?
posted 12-Jul-2019  ·  
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Recent pronouncements by two recently elected leaders in the island have raised the hopes of citizens who have long pined for local administrations with an inclination towards addressing social issues.

During her message at the inaugural session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Acting Governor Shirley Abundo expressed her wish for the provincial board to finally take another look at the Eastern Bicol Medical Center.

No, the caretaker chief executive was not just talking about improving the delivery of health services at the provincial hospital.

She was asking her colleagues at the SP to review the ordinance that created the EBMC economic enterprise and if needed amend policies to make the health facility more responsive to constituents needing treatment and hospitalization.

For years now since the eco-enterprise was created in 2011, the Commission on Audit has been calling on the provincial government to consider reverting the hospital back to what it was, instead of giving it subsidies year after year just to keep it operating.

Abundo likewise urged the SP to consider cutting back on usually high budgetary allocation for infrastructure projects, as the savings could be used for higher medical assistance and for the year-round training of athletes.

A similar idea has been aired by Virac Mayor Sinforoso Sarmiento Jr., whose advocacy for the poor was the winning formula for his recent campaign.

The chief executive of the capital town called for less infra in order to increase the budget for the Assistance to Individuals in Crisis Situation (AICS) program.

Both leaders could face significant challenges in this regard, more particularly the lady vice governor.

Abundo, as well as her supporters in the board, will have to work fast as Governor Joseph Cua could come back any time once he clears his legal hurdle at the Ombudsman.

It should be recalled that the EBMC economic enterprise is Cua’s pet project and he will be naturally pissed if the board decides to amend the ordinance’s key provisions or, worse, revert the hospital back to its original status.

A common issue that would challenge both the acting governor and the new Virac mayor would be how to reconcile their desire to cut back on infra while satisfying their allies’ hunger for projects that bring home the bacon, so to speak.

It has been public knowledge that many, if not all, local chief executives and legislators routinely jostle for their piece of the infrastructure pie, with the contracts either implemented on their own or sold for a commission to contractors.

As Mayor Sarmiento put it well in his speech before the councilors, if he will not be able to convince the Sanggunian to follow his plan, he will have to follow the august body as he believes they share his dream of helping the poorer sector of society.

Whether the two leaders would succeed in this regard would be depend on the reality that once elected, most politicians promptly forget their campaign promises and, instead, set out to fatten their pockets for the next elections.

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