Palawan transfer to Region VI may never materialize

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo reportedly deferred the transfer of Palawan and Puerto Princesa City to Western Visayas this Aug. 18, according to Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Rafael Coscolluela.

Actually, that may never take place.

It is not only the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Palawan that is vehemently opposing the move, but the congressmen of Palawan, Marinduque and Romblon had already filed last December a bill seeking to flesh in Region IV-B as MAMIROPA according to Palawan Rep. Antonio Alvarez.

The issue, he said, is very simple. The Constitution has eliminated the country’s administrative regions, including Region IV-I, which was taken from the former Southern Tagalog region, Alvarez said.

The only reason why he introduced the bill calling for the full acimation of Region IV-B is to flesh out what Charter has provided for.

"What the congressman of Region IV-B wanted is to assure that we do not get deprived of our budgetary allocations under the Appropriation Act so that our respective constituencies receive what is rightfully theirs," stressed Alvarez.

The politician added that "we still have to avail of our own natural resources and develop our provinces." The area receives only a pittance of the budgetary allotment for Region IV.

Alvarez added that even the town mayors and barangay officials of Palawan are against the integration of the province into Western Visayas.

He added that he apprised Coscolluela about the position he and the other solons of the MAMIROPA had adopted.

"I pointed out that the President violated the constitutional right of Palaweños to public consultation," he added.

House Bill No. 3328, principally authored by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Alfonso Umali Jr. calls for the establishment of the Southwestern Tagalog Region, including Palawan and its capital, Puerto Princesa.

Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes, he said, may have just gone along with the Executive Order without fully realizing the implications and without consulting Palawan mayors.

He also dismissed reports form Antique Gov. Sally Zaldivar-Perez, Western Visayas Regional Development Council chair, that he had given his nod to the proposed transfer of Palawan to Region VI.

"I had never talked to Gov. Perez. Otherwise, I would have explained to her in detail why that is a no-go proposal," Alvarez.

Coscolluela said the Department of Interior and Local Government had been asked to submit an implementation plan on the transfer to determine possible ramifications so they can be tackled in a dialogue.

Well, that may never take off in view of the steps taken by the lawmakers of Southwestern.
‘Sweetheart Sugar deal’
Bacolod City Rep. Monico Puentevella said over the weekend that he will seek a conference with Finance Secretary Margarito Teves to block the scheduled Aug. 12 sale of the Philippine National Bank (PNB) in view of the complaints of the Plunder of the Sugar Industry (PASPI) of the alleged "sweetheart deal" between the bank and the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

Officers of PASPI gave the Puentevella an intensive briefing on how the BSP appeared to have given the PNB the privilege of holding the loan payments of sugar farmers under an escrow account. In short, PNB will not have to pay the BSP the P3-billion loan to farmers until 2013.

As explained by banker Titus Abella, the BSP sold the loan accounts of the planters which it had inherited from the Republic Planters Bank (RBP) without having to pay the government bank a single cent until 2013. In effect, PNB now owned the loans of the sugar farms and could use this money to pay the BSP for the buy-back.

What made it a troubling issue was that the PNB, who was supposed to implement the Constitution, had only succeeded in cutting down the interest on the loans to one percent. But what made the situation questionable was that PAPSI officials claimed they had offered buy back plans several times but were rejected by both the BSP and the PNB.

Abello cited his personal case. When he first approached the BSP to pay his loan, he was told to talk to PNB first.. When he approached officials, he was told that BSP had nothing to do with it. The purpose of Abello was get back the collateral payment for his loan, which was originally with PNB. But he was reportedly turned down by PNB, citing the Bank Secrecy Act.

Complicating the problem is that the collateral value of their properties were grossly undervalued by the original bank, RPB. It was then valued at only P23,000. Now, with the planters‘ debts ballooning to a total of about P13 billion, their lands may be foreclosed and auctioned off.

Well, anyway, Puentevella said he will discuss with Teves ways to address this issue were the government bank seem to have entered into a transaction that would only result in handing over to PNB’s buyer a bonanza without regard to the plight of the sugar farmers. PASPI, incidentally, has more than 4,000 members.
Port manager’s slay unsolved
The Bacolod police yesterday disclosed that the killers of Top Harbor International port manager Florante Andan, who was gunned down Saturday at the Bacolod City reclamation area, remain unidentified and the motive for the killing unknown.

Andan’s slaying by a lone gunman stirred Bacolod City.

Senior Police Officer 1 Nilo Sumaysay, chief of the intelligence and investigation section of Precinct 2, claimed that their investigation showed that a man and woman who stayed in a cottage just a few meters from the scene of Andan’s murder were no longer around when they were sought for possible questioning by the police.

The unidentified couple has reportedly stayed in the cottage starting at 3 p.m. of that day but did not order anything.

Andan, a resident of Carmela Executive Village of Talisay City, was reportedly caught unaware by the gunman believed to have hidden himself behind Bougainvella plants about 10 meters away from his Toyota Land Cruiser.

Andan reportedly went out about 3 p.m. to withdraw money from a bank and returned at about 7 p.m. At 8:55 p.m., he was seen leaving the Bacolod Pavilion Restaurant and was about to board his vehicle when he was shot dead by his assailant, who wearing a black bonnet. He was hit three times, the fatal one on the head.
Heartbreak story
A developing scandal was the story of the ll players of the Paglaum National High School softball team. The defending Junior League world champion, were left stranded in Manila last week by their controversial coach Reynaldo "Gay" Fuentes and principal Benjamin Barredo. The two officials brought three players reportedly to the US after they had secured their visas last Aug. 3.

The officials reportedly left for the US to raise funds to allow the members of the team to follow. Later, they informed the players, billeted in Parañaque that they could not raise enough funds for their fare to the US.

Luckily, the Education Training and Center School, the RP entry in the Little League World Series, managed to leave for the US Saturday night. Domingo Lacson National High School flew to Seattle yesterday to compete in the Junior League World Series.

Puentevella said that although the matter is internal problem of the Paglaum National High School team, he is willing to help untangle the mess left behind by Fuentes and company.

Fuentes and his wife had earlier been involved in controversies such as owing the coach some P435,000 for his and his wife’s air fare to Lakewood and a Cebu-based travel agency for the three players’ fare.

Well, the softball team members were left holding an empty bag. They are coming home to Bacolod today.

How Fuentes and the other officials could present themselves in the US remains a major problem. Imagine a team with a coach and the school principal sans any player except three close relatives. This is something for the Guinness Book of World Records.

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