Deputy Speaker Henedina Abad of Batanes, one of several lawmakers who reportedly received huge allotments under the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), on Thursday said she was not the sole proponent of the P176-million DAP projects for her province.
Abad, wife of Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, added that her proposed projects were only worth P86 million. Of the P86 million, P23 million was returned because of delays in their implementation.
The lawmaker said other proponents of projects for Batanes include the National Council for Indigenous Peoples-Batanes, the local government of Batanes, Senators Antonio Trillanes 4th and Franklin Drilon and Secretary Joseph Abaya of the Department of Transportation and Communications.
Among Abad’s DAP-funded projects were Batanes’ Beautification and Greening Program, Improvement of Banco Multi-Purpose Building and completion of the two-story Gabaldon building, construction of access road, medical assistance to indigent patients, educational assistance program, sports development program and implementation of Alternative Learning System (Basic Literacy Program).
“Critics would say why is it that Batanes has so much allocation when it is so small? Our constituents are not limited to Batanes. There are Ivatans in Metro Manila, in Batangas. People come to us. And as a prime tourist destination, we need initiatives on eco-tourism, preserve our culture, invest in disaster risk management. It is a duty of a representative to meet the needs of the constituents,” Abad said in an interview.
Batanes has a population of at least 16,000. Half, or 8,000, are registered voters.
Abad said Batanes 11,000 tourists visit her province in a period of six months.
“If a tourist spends P3,000 in his or her three to four days stay, then we [Batanes] can contribute as much as P100 million to the economy. That is how we look at it. That is where the assistance is for,” she added.
Meanwhile, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales 2nd said at least P180 million of the P201 million in DAP allocation that he got was returned to the National Treasury this year.
An earlier report said he received P263 million.
Gonzales said the DAP funds were spent for social services such as scholarships and medical assistance.
He was one of the top 10 recipients of DAP funds. He, however, said districts of lawmakers who have more responsibilities such as the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader tend to get more projects.
“There is recognition that we have bigger responsibilities, and rightly so. We have to take responsibility for legislation. We have obligations that weigh a lot so it is not uncommon that there are additional projects for the leaders of Congress,” Gonzales added.