“The billions in people’s funds that will be freed up by the abolition of the corrupt pork barrel system should be rechanneled towards environmental protection, social services, and disaster and climate resiliency.” – ENAP Corruption!
By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA – The gargantuan pork barrel that remains, though hidden, in this year’s budget and in the proposed 2015 budget are not just “carrot and stick” being used by politicians to advance their rule, these pork also directly causes ruin to the environment. According to the Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan PNE), one of the early birds in yesterday’s anniversary action of the Million People March in Luneta Park and one also of the groups that vowed support to the campaign for a People’s Initiative to abolish the pork barrel system, both presidential and legislative pork have been used to advance environmentally ruinous projects. With pork in politicians’ hands, even projects vigorously opposed by affected communities are being implemented, the green group said.
“From destructive mega dams, tree-cutting in road projects to ‘ghost’ waste management and reforestation, pork barrel-driven programs have caused much environmental destruction and people’s vulnerability,” said Leon Dulce, campaign coordinator of Kalikasan PNE and spokesperson of the Environmental Network Against Pork Barrel and Corruption (ENAP Corruption!). Senate President Franklin Drilon’s pet Jalaur dam project in earthquake-prone Calinog town of Panay is one big example of these projects.
The said dam will inundate the ancestral land of and displace up to 17,000 Tumanduk and non-indigenous people of the island. It also places low-lying communities at risk of flashfloods as the dam is to be built in an area with inherent structural risk to an infrastructure like it. Worse, according to at least two studies conducted by AGHAM (Advocates for Science and Technology for the People) in the last two years, despite the high cost to people’s land and livelihood, the said dam will barely benefit the communities, as it promises only a negligible amount of energy and water which they will have to pay for. [To see a summary of Agham’s findings, click this.]
Like in Jalaur Dam where Aquino’s allies such as Drilon are alleged to have benefited through DAP (the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program) funds, an initial study of the green group reveals that around 38 percent of pork funds were used on projects that either had direct inimical environmental impacts, posed potential hazards, or put at risk various disaster and climate resiliency needs of the people.
“Important projects and programs that help empower our communities from disaster and climate change vulnerability, such as Project NOAH and DREAM, are being subjected to the whim and discretion of pork politicians. The Aquino government is, in fact, threatening its discontinuation should the DAP remain unconstitutional,” Dulce lamented.
Neither has pork readily freed funds to respond to disasters.
In various studies conducted by green groups and its affiliates in Agham, they found out that the “lump sum and discretionary nature of so-called contingency funds promotes a reactive approach in responding to disasters which is also prone to malversation of funds,” Dulce shared.
Victims of the strongest recorded typhoon (international name Haiyan) have received little to no post-disaster support even after almost 10 months, the green group said. So far, contrary to rosy reports of the Aquino government concerning its efforts at “building back better,” the environmentalists who have stayed in the area repeatedly in the past 10 months reported they have not seen “any evidence of the trickling down of the supposed P26-billion contingency funds that Aquino promised them.”
On the contrary, reconstruction funds seem to be in use to complete the typhoon’s displacement of communities, as the Aquino government pushes to implement a “No-Build Zone” against the former residents while welcoming big business construction projects in the same area.
The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) itself cannot monitor whether the aid it claimed it brought to the area reached the intended recipients, or whether the intended recipients they listed are indeed the ones in need. This is based on the answers given by Social Welfare Sec. Dinky Soliman to members of Yolanda survivors People Surge when they held “a dialogue” in Manila.
The People Surge has previously exposed the “color-coded” government response, where aid goes first and most to political allies. Meanwhile, those who complain of being ignored and abandoned, like members of the People Surge, are suspected of being close to the revolutionary movement, and so, truckloads of military rather than relief were reportedly sent to their families.
Web of corruption
Kalikasan-PNE said they will mobilize all their provincial, regional and national networks as machineries for the People’s Initiative, which seeks to gather 5.4 million to 6 million signatures by the year’s end.
“Abolishing ‘Disaster Pork’ and all pork barrel forms is one of the major calls of environmentalists, climate activists and disaster survivors. The billions in people’s funds that will be freed up by the abolition of the corrupt pork barrel system should be rechanneled towards environmental protection, social services, and disaster and climate resiliency,” said Dulce.
The green groups under ENAP Corruption! also brought to Luneta a ‘pork-free’ breakfast picnic. They also set up an exhibit showing the web of pork barrel corruption with the President at the center. They explained that the exhibit was based on a social network analysis of the Napoles pork barrel scam conducted by physicists of the University of the Philippines and members of scientist group AGHAM. The web adds details about the inter-connections of the DAP controversy.
Instead of allowing these leaders to continue unleashing pork to the environment and increasingly vulnerable communities, the green groups propose to take a swipe at this web of corruption and patronage, instead. “As prime DAP architect, President Aquino must be held accountable through impeachment, and his intent to avoid accountability through charter change and term extension must be opposed,” said Dulce of ENAP Corruption!