Benguet officials probe missing funds for reforestation project
- Artemio Dumlao () - October 6, 2009 - 12:00am

Itogon, Benguet, Philippines – Angry town and provincial officials are probing why a P10 million fund intended to reforest Itogon, Benguet has vanished in thin air.

Vice Mayor Noel Ngolob said Itogon, host of the headwaters of the 345-megawatt multi-billion San Roque Multi-purpose Dam Project in San Manuel, should be receiving P10 million from the environment department.

The reforestaion program under the Itogon Integrated Watershed Management Plan (IIWMP), was likewise supposed to set up livelihood projects in villages along the Agno River.

But, Ngolob lamented the money was diverted to Urdaneta. “We do not know why this was done. It is unfair for Itogon!” he said.

Sangunniang Panlalawigan member Coy Nazarro also said Itogon must probe the diversion and stand pat on claiming what is theirs for the welfare of their community.

Already, the Department of Environment Natural Resources technical management team admitted about the diversion of fund but it was reportedly the DENR central office’s decision.

As a social engineering scheme for Itogon residents to give consent on the dam project, the second largest dam in Asia built seven years ago, the proponents were able to forge an agreement for the national government through the DENR to provide livelihood projects as well as setting up of a fund to protect the forests along the banks of the Agno River.

Agno River is one among the five major river systems in the country.

The DENR was tasked to head the disposal of funds from the IIWMP.

For a 10-year period, the DENR is supposed to give a total of P700 million to Itogon.

But according to Ngolob, the funding has come in trickles to the detriment of villagers and the reforestation program.

Abner Villanueva, public information officer of the DENR-CAR said the fund allocation prepared by their central office in Manila during Secretary Angelo Reyes’ time as chief of the agency is really for San Manuel town in Pangasinan. He explained that the fund is for the putting up and operations of a tree nursery. 

He admitted, though, that the whole fund of P10 million is meant for tree seedling requirements around the dam project that includes upstream Itogon town.

The dam project, that generates huge electricity for the Luzon grid, is also supposed to control flood and irrigate 85,000 hectares in Pangasinan and other Central Luzon provinces.

ABNER VILLANUEVA AGNO RIVER BENGUET CENTRAL LUZON COY NAZARRO DAM PROJECT DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENT NATURAL RESOURCES ITOGON ITOGON INTEGRATED WATERSHED MANAGEMENT PLAN NGOLOB SAN MANUEL
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