Alternative to pork-A A +A
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
THE marine research station of the University of San Carlos (USC) sits besides one of Cebu’s plush resorts in Maribago, Lapu-Lapu City. It is the turf of marine biologist Dr. Filipina Sotto, program leader of the coral reef restoration program of the USC and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST).
Under the program, marine biologists reproduce corals and plant these in degraded coral reefs in various parts of the country. “We are for the science of it,” Sotto stressed. That means developing a viable technology to reproduce corals.
The program is funded by DOST and also gets funding support from some members of Congress through the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the version of the pork barrel that President Noynoy Aquino was supposed to have “abolished” recently.
This laudable project provides us with another way of viewing pork.
There’s no denying the “noble” intention of the pork barrel system. Many projects especially at the local level would not have been realized without it. And not all non-government organizations that have gotten allocations from the PDAF are bogus or of dubious status.
It is important for those calling for the abolition of the pork barrel system to warm up to this point if they want to come up with a more enlightened stand on the issue.
They must realize that toppling the pork barrel tree could also uproot funding support for legitimate projects and programs conceived by legislators and local officials.
The idea is to ensure that whatever legitimate projects and programs funded by the pork barrel would not be affected by its abolition. Meaning that an alternative setup needs to be put in place.
For Sotto, this can be done if the funds intended for the disposal of legislators be turned over the local government units instead. After all, the LGUs know better what projects and programs in the localities need to be extended funding support.
In the new mechanism that President Noynoy Aquino proposed to replace the PDAF, the power of legislators to pinpoint projects and programs to support will be retained.
What was not mentioned is that such power actually emanates from local government officials who are the ones that propose projects and programs to fund.
Since legislators are mere conduits in the process, they can be bypassed. So there’s logic to the proposal to empower local government officials instead of congressmen or senators in the matter of listing priority projects and programs to be funded at the district, municipal or even barangay level.
I asked Mayor Luciano Rama Jr. of Poro, Camotes about this and I was surprised by his answer. He felt that some local government officials may not be ready for such a responsibility. Besides, some local government officials can be as corrupt, or even more corrupt, than some legislators. So we might end up choosing the deep sea over the devil.
The main players of last Monday’s anti-pork barrel rally in Cebu City have considered the activity a success. But I also heard grumblings from others who think there is still room for improvement. One interesting suggestion is to use the protest action as a forum to educate the participants on the intricacies of the pork barrel system.
I reckon that the battle against pork would be a protracted one. In this sense, the protesters must also continuously raise their level of awareness of the issue so their actions won’t be blind but enlightened. They can’t just wallow in the spontaneity of their initial moves.
Those who want to retain the pork barrel system are even now finding ways to blunt the impact of the protest action. And they can be devious in doing so. The idea is for protesters to be able to see through the schemes hatched by the government so they won’t be fooled.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 28, 2013.