Press Release
February 17, 2015

Tap P7.8 B Deles budget in replacing Mamasapano's 'a bridge too far'

Sen. Ralph Recto today challenged the government's peace czar to allocate a fraction of her almost P8 billion budget this year in building a concrete bridge over the river in Mamasapano town near where 44 police commandos died in a gun battle with Moro rebels.

"That rickety foot bridge should be gone. If the OPAPP cannot replace it with a permanent one, then it will not only be a reminder of the carnage but a symbol of government neglect," Recto said.

OPAPP is the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process whose head Teresita Deles holds a Cabinet rank.

For 2015, the "OPAPP proper" has a budget of P490 million.

However, in what Recto described as a "stroke of creative budgeting", it has control over P7.3 billion worth of funds, lodged in 12 agencies, under a program called PAMANA or "Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan."

PAMANA, Recto said, is an "unitemized lump sum" in the national budget "which gives OPAPP some leeway in identifying where it can be spent."

Recto said one candidate for PAMANA funding is the much-photographed makeshift bridge leading to the cornfield where two companies of the PNP's Special Action Forces were boxed in by combined MILF-BIFF forces after serving a warrant of arrest to a Malaysian bombmaker and his Filipiino cohort.

"Tawag dyan nung SAF na nakaligtas ay 'a bridge too far' because they were trying to cross it to safety. It might as well be called as the bridge too far away from Manila that it can't be repaired," the senator said.

Recto said if "development projects underpin peace efforts" then building a new bridge in Tukanalipao "signals the government's intention to accompany the drive to stop the war with projects that promote progress."

"I don't want to call it reparations. Pero siguro naman yung mamamayan ng bayan na yan ay dapat makatanggap ng pondo na nakalaaan para sa mga proyektong pangkapayapaan," Recto said.

He said funds to build the bridge can no longer be siphoned off from the P24.3 billion budget of the ARMM government.

Total ARMM budget for new bridges is P418 million in 2015. Of the 35 bridges to be built, only two projects will be in Maguindanao, where Mamasapano is, with an allocation of P97 million.

"This leaves us with OPAPP's P7.3 billion PAMANA budget as the only viable source of funding," Recto said.

PAMANA and OPAPP's combined budget of P7.8 billion, Recto said, is two times bigger than the budget of the Department of Trade and Industry, thrice the budget of the Tourism department, and seven times the budget of the Polytechnic University of the Philippines.

"Kahit sa budget ng OPAPP mismo, merong P229 million for the "socio-economic component" of the "normalization process," he said.

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