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EDITORIAL: Good grief

MANY were happy upon hearing the good news that the budget for the planned San Jose Airport in faraway Partido area of the 4th district of Camarines Sur, about 30 kilometers or more away from the urban center that is Naga, has finally been scrapped from the 2018 General Appropriations Act (GAA). The joy is not because a town has been deprived of a multi-million peso fund for a major infrastructure project but because common sense has prevailed over a ridiculous, nay absurd, project, and eventually a huge amount of taxpayers money has been saved from the claws of wayward political expedience. “The budget for the San Jose Airport (in San Jose, Camarines Sur) was already removed from the budget. I have talked to Secretary Tugade, and it was removed,” Rep. L-Ray Villafuerte of the 2nd district of Camarines Sur was reported as saying in this paper’s headline story last week. This same paper reported, through its senior correspondent Juan Escandor Jr., that as early as December 5, last year, Camarines Sur Congressmen Luis Raymund Villafuerte (second district), Gabriel Bordado (third district) and Salvio Fortuno (fifth district) jointly filed House Resolution 1510 urging the House committee on transportation and appropriations to conduct, in aid of legislation, an inquiry regarding the inclusion of the planned San Jose Airport in the 2018 General Appropriation Bill. The joint House Resolution at the same time endorses the recommendation of the October 2014 Feasibility and Master Plan for the Naga Development Project Final Report that “the Proposed New Naga Airport must serve as the sole future jet airport for Camarines Sur province to fully maximize the project.” It was questioned why the planned San Jose Airport, which the Office of Fourth District Congressman Arnulfo Fuentebella initiated in his district, has secured funding from the House without the knowledge of the other congressmen from Camarines Sur during the budget deliberations. Villafuerte has reiterated that the San Jose Airport is a duplication of the Naga Airport, which direly needs rehabilitation and expansion in order to better serve its increasing number of tourists and investors coming to Naga and Camarines Sur, and appropriating another huge amount of money for a new airport in the same province will therefore result to “an unnecessary waste of government funds.” It should be recalled that as early as September 8, 2014, the Regional Development Council in Bicol has approved funding for the P3.53B Naga Airport Development Project. Mayor John G. Bongat of Naga City said the supportive gesture of then RDC chair and Albay Gov. Joey Salceda led to the favorable endorsement which was something that the people of Naga and Camarines Sur have appreciated. “It is an act that unifies the entire Bicol region,” Bongat was quoted as saying. Having two airports for a single province that cannot even be considered a progressive one that may command an impressive number of tourists and visitors coming in on a daily basis may not be a cause of concern if our country has excess or enough money to squander on just to submit to the whims and selfish motives of a third-rate politician. It is bad enough that the present administration has put Bicol in the least of priorities of development with its railways being left to rot, and its highways (two of the major ones ironically named in honor of bygone and forgettable political clans’ ancestors) always in their worst conditions all year round, still we have this wily and selfish-thinking surviving congressman-son manipulating to take away our chance to have a better airport by conceiving for himself another costly white elephant of an airport in a remote town. We remember his family that has ruled their district for over a hundred years unable to pave the road in forsaken Siruma town, and now has to repair again the poorly-constructed Tinambac-Tamban road, while building another unfinished road to Caramoan with a new route bypassing to connect to an existing one, simply because the latter was initially built by a rival politician. We also remember them putting up a poorly researched mini-dendro-thermal plant in their district funded by a huge loan from China in the time of Marcos that had all gone to naught despite the too much hullabaloo played up by his father who was then the governor of Camarines Sur. That is why we were overjoyed to hear that the much ballyhooed multi-million peso budget for a silly idea of an airport in a town less travelled has been scrapped without even bothering to ask why the good news was there happening.

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