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PDA abolition: Fear and anxiety

By Dodong P. Valencia

TIGAON, Camarines Sur ---Since day one after the issuance by Malacañang of Memorandum No. 29, dated September 26, 2018, that abolished the Partido Development Administration (PDA), mixed reactions continue to pour in.

It stirred discussions and debates all day and night in the ten municipalities of the district.

Since the PDA has been in existence for more than five decades already, meant to assist the social, economic and political development programs and activities within the district, the public immediately feared that its abolition would mean dislocation of permanent employees, disruption of transactions, and cessation of the delivery of services that will bring deep repercussions among the leaders and people involved.

Reactions on Facebook

Comments (for and against the abolition) are storming the social media involving the various sectors of the congressional district.

An official of the PDA copied and reposted on her wall a pro-analysis by a department head of the municipality of Sangay, which summarizes and enumerates the flagship accomplishments of PDA pursuant to its holistic and comprehensive plan based on Partido’s economic profile.

They include education promotion through the Partido State University (PSU) and the Philippine Science High School- Bicol Campus; construction of a water system – the PWSS -- through a soft loan; district-wide electrification and strengthening of the local electric cooperative (CASURECO IV); construction/improvement of various roads and bridges like the Sangay-Tiwi Road, Goa-Tinambac-Siruma Road and Lagonoy-Presentacion-Garchitorena and Caramoan road network; establishments of hospitals/infirmary; and a lot more of infra-tourism projects.

The post explained further that the “Return of Investment” (PDA’s accomplishments) shall also be considered not only its “Financial Statement” and the socio-economic profile of Partido before and the present should be compared, with the consideration of the PDA’s social services that could not be translated by nor equated to the financial aspect. It will be unreasonable to compare the poverty incidence of the district vis-à-vis the neighboring districts which is one of the bases of the abolition,” according to the post.

But a pro-abolition account also argued that the operation of the PDA is totally useless because currently the financial status of the PDA has been depleted even as the PDA failed to deliver the development targets for Partido.

Another account by a provincial government official cited the following reasons for the abolition: a.) Overlapping functions with LGUs in the district; b.) Failure to produce the desired outcomes and inability to generate the level of social, physical and economic returns vis-à-vis resource output; c.) Continued incurrence of net operating losses from 2004- 2014;and, d.) Ballooning NG Advances.

Politics; the root?

Meanwhile, two main synopsis are emerging, namely; a) The abolition is a political flaw over public interest, and b.) Call for abolition was due to actual institutional lapses under a political control.

According to a resident of San Jose on condition to withhold his name, “the abolition of the PDA is a mere simple political strategy through an affluent means with lack of foresight on the part of the petitioners that it may jeopardize the safety, order and welfare of the people.”

However, another resident, also on condition of anonymity, replied that, “the petitioners for abolition, are legitimately exercising their rights of expression, but the PDA officials are just taking it for granted due to oversight and over confidence.”

Constituents in the district, due to usual and several political circumstances that they personally witnessed or experienced, honestly surmise that the Villafuerte group and their close-in supporters are behind the move to abolish the PDA. Whereas, the Fuentebella clan and its die-hard supporters are the number one critics of the provincial government for alleged corruption, abusive governance, and inefficiency.

In a political literature, the Villafuerte camp is echoing a favorite political propaganda against the Fuentebellas as “Dai ta kaipuhan an 100 na taon, kundi sarung pagkakataon”. It simply emphasizes the “over-staying of the Fuentebellas in government for having dominated the Partido district’s political existence for over a hundred years now.

The fear over transition – water from nowhere

Public fear and apprehension resonated when a local radio, after confirming the abolition, aired the possibility of cutting off the services of the Partido Water Supply System (PWSS) due to low morale of employees discharging the functions of the system. Worse, PDA Administration posted a notice about the possibility of stoppage of PWSS operations at any time soon, and urged consumers to start looking for alternative water sources.

PWSS, claimed to be as one of the most significant legacies of the PDA, is servicing water supply to almost 90-95% households, government institutions and commercial establishments throughout the district. “It is the cheapest, cleanest and most sustainable potable water system operating in the entire region,” according to PDA officials.

“If it will happen (stoppage of water service), it will be very alarming and disgusting” says a fast food customer who experienced having been limited with one glass of water only in his meal to save early on threatened water supply.“Why should we pay the price while we religiously pay our bills?” he asked.

Public interest becomes an issue

Last October 12, 2018 at Partido State University Gymnasium in Goa town, a General Assembly meeting was held before some three thousand consumer-members of the Partido Water Supply System.

Rep. Arnulfo P. Fuentebella of the 4th district of Camarines Sur was one of the key speakers who reviewed the most significant accomplishments of the PDA, and that despite all these, he wondered Provincial Board Members Gilmar “ Maymay” S. Pacamarra and Atty. Badong Simando, led sponsorship of Sangguniang Panglalawigan Res. No. 474, Series of 2018, which endorses the abolition of the PDA when they themselves were recipients of the PDA..

The elder Fuentebella also reminisced how Pacamara participated in PDA programs and activities when he was still with the Fuentebella camp; and how he (Fuentebella) helped alleviate the condition of then ailing father of Simando.

“Patawara sinda ta dai ninda aram an saindang ginigibo,” the congressman intoned referring to Pacamara and Simando.

Another speaker was former Mayor Arnie Fuentebella who blurted:“Padi Maymay, amigo taka… padi kita.. pero sa ginibo mo sa Partido, dai taka mapapatawad.” Yet, after the show, many have seen the two “compadres” seriously talking with each other and reportedly exchanged personal apologies.

While Maymay and Simando were present as invited guests during the assembly, the two were never given chance to speak..

After having returned home, Pacamara posted on his FB account, Boses kan Partido: Ok lang na kami insultuhon, kundi an makaherak si mga consumidoris ta dai man lamang na isplikar kun madagos pa o mapuputolan tubig, na iyo kuta an pighahalat kan tawo”.

And he clarified that the water service will never be cut off because according to him, it is provided in a memorandum, particularly Section 3 thereof, “that an skeletal organization shall be retained in order not to disrupt or stop the daily public services and transactions of the PDA.”

Amidst controversies, an elderly stated his piece: “Public interest must prevail at all times… If we consider the abolition as a political strategy which compromises public interest, then why should it be retaliated by another political move that will put the welfare of the people on the extreme line? As if, if this is a sort of a man-made disaster, then we shall opt to participate in and never try to induce it to become more fatal and destructive.”

A church leader also said: “What we need today is to converge in a forum where politics aside, sincerity above, grudges behind, and God at the center to resolve the problem for once and for all.”

Privatization management office meeting

Last October 20, 2018, the incumbent officials of the PDA, headed by its chair, Jaime Delena and PDA administrator Engr. Ramon Fuentebella, the municipal mayors within the Partido district,along with Gov. Migz Vilafuerte,the acting SP Secrtary and other concerned officials of DILG, PPA, DBM, came to a meeting before the Privatization Management Office in Metro Manila to discuss key issues for the swift and orderly transition following the abolition.

Mayor Antonio B. Chavez of San Jose said some local chief executives who were opposing the abolition failed to attend.

He said that it was made clear during the meeting that water services by PWSS will not be disrupted but will temporarily be operated by LWUA.

Compensation for the affected PDA officials and personnel was also discussed during the meeting and that operation of the Nato Port will be relinquished to the Philippine Port Authority.

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