With a vote of seven against five, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Negros Occidental yesterday disapproved the P10 million loan being proposed by Governor Alfredo Marañon Jr. to be used in the construction of six classrooms at the Negros Occidental High School in Bacolod City.
The division of the house, which was moved by Board Member Renato Gustilo, was triggered by the suggestion of Board Member Pedro Zayco, chairperson of the SP committee on Education, that, instead of securing a loan at the Land Bank of the Philippines, the funds for additional classrooms should be taken from the 2013 budget, from the school board, or the general funds.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas had earlier approved the construction of 24 classrooms with a budget of P40 million, and additional classrooms at the annex building, which will cost the provincial government P10 million.
This prompted the SP committee on Finance and Appropriations chaired by Board Member Salvador Escalante Jr. to endorse yesterday for adoption of the committee report, which calls for the passage of an ordinance authorizing Marañon to negotiate with LBP to sign for and behalf of the provincial government all loan documents related to the construction of NOHS annex building for P10,160,454.
However, it was not approved by the SP.
Expressing his dismay and sadness over disapproval of the proposed P10 million budget, Maranon dismissed it as politically-motivated, stressing that “ if there is no politics involved, it should have been already approved”.
Marañon, however, assured NOHS that he will look for other sources of funds to pursue the construction of the six classrooms, although it may take time.
He said the engineers will have to rethink how to continue the project, as the ongoing construction of the 24 NOHS classrooms, which was financed by the provincial government, is inter-connected with the six classrooms to be built.
Escalante had explained earlier that the six NOHS classrooms are replacements for the demolished old classrooms, that posed danger to student occupants, and are included in the first phase of the project.
In justification of his suggestion to look for other sources of funds for the six classrooms, Zayco said it will take another three to five months to secure an approval from BSP for the P10 million loan at Land Bank.
While Escalante Board Members Miller Serondo and Melvin Ibañez described the suggestion of Zayco as laudable, they stressed the need for the SP to tackle and decide first on whether to approve or disapprove the P10 million loan as requested by Marañon.
Escalante, Serondo, Ibanez, Board Members Nehemias de la Cruz and Jose Benito Alonzo voted for approval of the P10 million loan,while Board Members Patrick Lacson, Emilio Yulo III, Renato Gustilo, George Gitano, Thea Mae Dino and Zayco voted against it.
Vice-Governor Genaro Alvarez, the presiding officer, declared the disapproval of the loan, based on the result of the voting. He had earlier questioned the construction of six classrooms, and the P40 million budget for 24 NOHS classrooms, cost at P1.6 million each.
Yulo also questioned the repayment scheme for a period of seven years, with a five percent interest rate. In the first two years, he said the provincial government will be paying P500,000 per year.
He added that the interest alone is enough to finance the construction of one classroom per year.
In moving for the division of the house, Gustilo stressed the need to stop securing loans, which have already reached P1.5 billion, so far.
Marañon, however, said the provincial government has not even reached the 50 percent debt limit set by the Department of Finance, at P2.6 billion.
He said the loans secured by the province are about P1.2 billion, stressing that even the United States has trillions in loans.
Marañon also said “This is the right time to secure loans because the cost of money is very cheap.”
“Infrastructure is inter-generational, for which the next generation should also pay,” he added, stressing that school buildings last for a lifetime.
Asked for his message on the board members who disapproved the proposed loans, he said “I hope they will seek guidance and remove the politics and should think first about the merit of the program”.
Board Members Mae Javellana and Helen Zafra abstained during the voting, while Board Member Raul Rivera is on sick leave.
The SP, meanwhile concurred with the realignment of the 20 percent Provincial Development Fund and Gender and Development Fund balances of P3.8 million to various priority projects and programs of the provincial government, as endorsed by the Provincial Development Council executive committee.*GPB