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Anything doable under a good government– Lacson

Paolo Romero - The Philippine Star
Anything doable under a good governmentâ Lacson
Sen. Panfilo Lacson, standard-bearer of Partido Reporma, visited Benguet to meet with local officials, traders and residents on Saturday and was scheduled in Pangasinan yesterday with his running mate, Sotto of the Nationalist People’s Coalition.
Ping Lacson Staff / Release, File

MANILA, Philippines — A good government can lead the country above its current economic, environmenal and security challenges, the tandem of Sen. Panfilo Lacson and Senate President Vicente Sotto III assured the public over the weekend during a forum in the north.

Lacson, standard-bearer of Partido Reporma, visited Benguet to meet with local officials, traders and residents on Saturday and was scheduled in Pangasinan yesterday with his running mate, Sotto of the Nationalist People’s Coalition.

Listening to long-neglected concerns of the two food-producing provinces capped the week of both senators who had just launched an inquiry into unabated large-scale smuggling of agricultural products in the Senate.

In Benguet, Lacson discussed his Budget Reform Advocacy for Village Empowerment (BRAVE) program that he said can play a significant role in addressing economic problems since it seeks to empower local government units (LGUs) down to the barangay level by recalibrating how the national budget is being distributed nationwide.

Under his proposal, unused and underutilized appropriations that could reach an average of about P400 billion every year could be redirected to fund relevant local development projects that would emanate from and be implemented by the people in the communities themselves.

“Why don’t we just download those funds to an LGU like Benguet down to the barangays? If we do the math, we can easily allocate P1 billion for every province?” Lacson said at the “Online Kamustahan” there.

In the case of Benguet, for example, which, according to Gov. Melchor Diclas, has been experiencing challenges with respect to irrigation systems for its upland farms, additional funds for development projects could go a long way, he said.

This is on top of the 20 percent normally apportioned for such purpose from the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) of LGUs.

Under the BRAVE setup, cities and municipalities could also receive at least P100-million extra funds and P5 million for each barangay, Lacson said.

If government officials could pool these additional resources they stand to get through that program, establishing an irrigation system for the ‘Salad Bowl of the Philippines’ could easily be achieved. And this is not just limited to that kind of project, the electrification of unelectrified villages is also possible, among other things, he said.

“Every year, you can expect that kind of funding. If each community, each village here in Benguet does not achieve considerable growth under this arrangement, I don’t know what else we can do,” he added.

Lacson said that he and Sotto would replicate at least half of what Partido Reporma secretary-general and Davao del Norte Gov. Edwin Jubahib managed to accomplish in his province.

He has a program that helps absorb the potential losses of farmers over their unsold and undermarketed produce.

In Davao del Norte, the provincial government has committed to buy 100 percent of the farmers’ total agricultural output at their own price, which it then sells to public markets. This way, the farmers are able to secure their income while the provincial government derives a two-percent profit from its investment.

“The lives of farmers in Davao del Norte improved because they were able to benefit from their harvest. Imagine if the same thing happens for Benguet with the help of the provincial government, with assistance from the national government,” Lacson said.

“And that can be done because there will be funds allocated every year. So, that is the solution we are offering, and it’s doable because the money is there just remaining unused,” he added during a brief forum that followed.

Speaking on behalf of his constituents in Benguet, Diclas said he sees the value in the solutions that Lacson offered.

He also thanked Lacson and senatorial aspirants Dr. Minguita Padilla and Monsour del Rosario for visiting their province to present their respective programs.

“The program of BRAVE is really beneficial for the local governments. The P1-billion annual allocation for every province, P100 million for the municipality, and P5 million for each barangay are a great help. It’s a huge funding that could potentially support our constituents,” Diclas said.

Over 260 LGU officials and residents from La Trinidad and neighboring towns such as Bakun, Bokod, Itogon, Kabayan, Kibungan, Mankayan, Sablan, Tuba and Tublay went in person to attend the socially distanced gathering.

Prior to the “Online Kumustahan” event, the three paid a courtesy call on Diclas at the provincial capitol where they were given a traditional welcome ritual. Lacson, Padilla and Del Rosario arrived at the venue wearing woven ethnic Benguet clothing on top of their casual outfits.

Legendary Filipino folk rock band ASIN, led by frontwoman Lolita Carbon, was a featured performer during the program. The band played their classic hit song “Kapaligiran,” which Carbon dedicated to the victims of Typhoon Odette, as well as “Bayan Kong Mahal,” the song that the band wrote in support of the “We Need a Leader Movement.”

BRAVE LACSON
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