Bichara dismayed over bloated damage reports

LEGAZPI CITY --- Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara on Tuesday has expressed dismay over the apparent bloated damage report submitted by various local government units (LGUs) after Typhoon Tisoy hit Bicol last Dec. 3 this year.

Typhoon Tisoy pounded with strong winds and heavy rains Albay province causing over P6 billions worth of damages to public and private infrastructure and agriculture.

Data from the Albay Public Safety Emergency and Management Office (APSEMO) indicated that as of Dec. 10, damages to infrastructure, social services, and agriculture were estimated at P6.3 billion.

Infrastructure and social services had the biggest damages with P6 billion, while agriculture has P314 million in production losses, the report said.

In an interview, the Albay governor, after reviewing damage reports from the 15 towns and three cities, found that almost all of the reports were padded as high as 50 percent.

“You can just imagine 50 percent of the P6.3 billion damages, that’s equivalent to P3.1 billion damages were reportedly padded,” he said.

Bichara said “ the reports needs to be reviewed and validated by the Albay Public Safety Emergency and Management Office (APSEMO) in coordination with appropriate agencies like the Departments of Public Works and Highways, Agriculture, and Social Welfare.”

He said “I understand and don’t blame the LGUs since they are forced to jack up their estimates believing that only half of what they estimated may be granted and eventually released in the form rehabilitation funds.”

Citing how the damage reports are prepared, Bichara said the normal practice starts at the village level where barangay officials list down the damages then submit them to the town or city mayors, who in turn submit a consolidated report to the province.

He said “generally the bloated estimates of damages starts at the barangay levels, then these goes to the town or city for another rounds of padding.”

Ask whether he has reprimanded those LGUs with padded reports, Bichara said “we called their attention while avoiding to offend them and their credibility, these LGU instead were asked to make revision of their respective damage reports.”

Asked how would the national government immediately take action on their damage report, Bichara said “it is easy to prepare and submit report however the bureaucracy is quite slow on processing this as they still have to assess, validate and recommend the necessary budget to finance the needed rehabilitation.”