A FRUSTRATED Cagayan Gov. Manuel Mamba yesterday lashed out at the Commission on Audit for its report saying his province is ill-equipped to respond to calamities because it lacks basic equipment.
Contrary to the COA findings, Mamba said, his province has enough resources to respond to calamities, including the recent flooding that hit his province and affected over 300,000 of his constituents, about 5,000 of them still in evacuation centers.
The massive flooding in Cagayan and Isabela is subject of a House investigation which will start on Tuesday next week.
COA, in a 2019 report released in July, said Cagayan lacks basic tools and equipment — needed during floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruption, landslides and other natural and man-made calamities — listed by the Local Government Academy.
“We were prepared from the very start,” said Mamba who has been serving as the province’s governor for the past five years now.
Mamba said the province has enough boats and other equipment needed to respond to calamities. He said he has also empowered and trained people to respond to calamities and even organized 24/7 quick response teams.
“Ako lang po ang governor na nagbigay na brand-new na grader sa lahat ng towns. (I am only the governor to give brand-new graders to all towns),” he said.
Mamba said he is not the kind of local government leader who will buy something that is not needed, just to enrich himself.
“Wala akong `SOP [standard operating procedure]’ dito sa Cagayan (I have no `SOP’ here in Cagayan),” said Mamba, referring to kickbacks. He said he did not benefit from any “SOP” when he was congressman and mayor.
He said the province’s P150 million calamity fund is all accounted for. “Alam ko kung papano gastusin. Hindi po nawala ang pera, nandiyan ang pera, hindi ko lang po ginagastos,” said Mamba.
Also, he said he has only spent only 50 percent of the Bayanihan fund allocated to the province to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. He said other provinces have spent 90 to 95 percent of their Bayanihan fund.
“Yung COA di ko maintindihan sila kung commission sila or ano, o nangungumisyon o commission talaga sila… They should not kwan na mas marunong sila na higit sa ano. (I cannot under COA, if they are commission or out for commission. They should act as if they are better than us),” he said.
He said there is no reason for him to buy boats every year when the province has more than enough boats.
The COA report said under the Local Government Academy’s disaster preparedness standards, an LGU should have on standby emergency vehicles, which means trucks of boats, among others.
Mamba also said he is not like other officials who would declare state of calamity at every opportunity “just to spend the money.”
“Hindi po ako ganun, mula nun po, kaya po nasi-save (I’m not like that even before, that’s why we are able to save),” he added.
The House committee on agriculture and food is set to conduct an investigation into the Cagayan and Isabela flooding on Tuesday next week, according to committee chair Quezon Rep. Mark Enverga.
The investigation is the offshoot of House Resolution No. 1348 filed by Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, majority leader Martin Romualdez, and minority leader Joseph Stephen Paduano.
Bagong Henerasyon party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera said the purpose of the investigation is not finger-pointing but fact-finding to prevent it from happening in the future.
The deputy majority leader has also filed a resolution seeking inquiry into what she called the “untimely and irresponsible” opening of floodgates of dams and watersheds in Luzon during the onslaught of typhoon Ulysses.
The House committee on Metro Manila Development will also hold its own investigation into flooding in Metro Manila, which its chair Manila Rep. Manny Lopez said, has caused “unacceptable” damage and loss of life.
The lawmaker from Tondo cited a 2013 Time Magazine article which dubbed the Philippines as “the most exposed country in the world to tropical storms.” He noted that on the average, 20 tropical cyclones enter the Philippine area of responsibility.
“Why, and how is it that seemingly every year, we remain witness to such catastrophes? Are there enough disaster mitigation infrastructure and policies in place?” he said.
“Why is it that as recent as a few months past, this committee was conducting hearings on water interruptions and water rationing in Metro Manila like we reside in an arid desert landscape? And now, we have to conduct investigations on why we cannot manage a large inflow of rainwater brought about by tropical storms. There lies a big disconnect in how we manage this most valuable of resources, water– and of which we are lucky to be abundantly blessed with,” he added.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan on Wednesday called for the establishment of an agency that will oversee all water-related matters, including the release of water from dams during typhoons.
In an interview with ANC TV, Pangilinan underscored the need to create an integrated water resource management agency to prevent similar incidents from happening again.
Pangilinan said the agency will identify and craft a long-term plan on flooding and other water-related issues such as irrigation and hydroelectricity.
“So, it’s an integrated approach to managing our water to address the critical need for potable water, irrigation, to address power, and to address flooding,” he said. – With Wendell Vigilia and Raymond Africa