WHERE is the P11-million fund set aside for the Cebu City mountain barangays to counter the effects of the mild dry spell?

Councilor Margarita Osmeña asked this question yesterday because the mountain villages have been asking for water hoses, plastic barrels and drums so they can get whatever water is available for their crops.

In a privilege speech during the City Council’s regular session yesterday, the budget and finance committee head pointed out that in anticipation of El Niño, the council approved P11 million worth of supplies and materials since last year.

“It is undoubtedly summer. We complain of the intense heat and discomfort we are experiencing and it is of no consolation to us that Pag-asa has already warned us that it will get even hotter. While we suffer discomfort, there are others whose very livelihoods are actually threatened by this situation

“I would like to ask now, where are these supplies and materials? Who were the beneficiaries of drums and hoses? If these were already distributed, how were the recipients selected?” she said.

Osmeña pointed out that she still gets requests from the barangays, for water hoses and plastic drums.

The P11-million budget set aside to counter the effects of El Niño was supposed to be charged to the City Government’s share of revenues from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor). The City gets at least P4 million each month from the state-run gaming firm.

Of the P11.29 million, Osmeña said, P7.5 million was requested by the City Agriculture Department, while the remaining P3.79 million was covered by resolutions sponsored by various councilors.

Quoting City Agriculturist Joelito Baclayon, Osmeña said there are about 14,000 to 15,000 farmers in the mountain barangays of the city.

She wants to know if they were able to get the supplies.

The councilor said her office asked Baclayon last March 25 for a complete list of the farmer-beneficiaries, as well as the guidelines for the distribution of the supplies and materials, but she has not received a response yet.

“Obviously, there is a need to address these pleas of our farmers to help them. I am confident that the council will act with expediency should we have to...We must act now. The heat is on,” she added.

Sought for comment, Baclayon, in an interview, clarified that of the P7-million fund his office requested, only P5 million was used for the El Niño preparations. The P2 million was used to help farmers affected by last year’s cold spell.

For the P5 million, Baclayon said the distribution of the supplies and materials such as hoses and drums is ongoing.

“Despite that, naa gyud gihapoy mangayo kay (barangays keep asking for help because) you can imagine 14,000 farmers na, and gusto silag ilang kaugalingong (they want their own) drums and hoses,” he said.

Osmeña asked Baclayon to furnish her office with a report on the usage of funds.

Baclayon said he is preparing the report together with the office of Councilor Dave Tumulak, who is the presiding officer of the Cebu City Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (CCDRRMC).

After Osmeña’s speech, the council decided to conduct an executive session about the status of the P11-million budget with the agriculture office, CCDRRMC and some farmers on May 6.