MANILA, Philippines – The Cagayan Export Zone Authority (CEZA) was created by a law authored by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. Therefore, funds for its project effectively becomes his pork barrel.
At least, this is how his fierce enemy, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, characterizes the P890 million allocated for the Port Irene Navigational Channel project in the 2014 budget.
Calling the allocation “illegal and immoral,” Santiago sent a letter to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) on Wednesday, December 11, recommending a presidential veto on the item.
The proposed 2014 budget was approved by the bicameral conference committee on Tuesday. The Senate ratified it Wednesday.
"I humbly believe that this appropriation is both illegal and immoral…. I humbly but strongly recommend that it would be appropriate for DBM to recommend that President Aquino should veto this anomalous item in the 2014 budget," Santiago said in her letter to DBM Secretary Florencio Abad.
"Enrile insisted that the budget should give over P800 million to his home province of Cagayan, to construct what he insists will be a so-called deeper navigational channel for Port Irene," to think that the country witnessed a "hellish apocalypse" in the aftermath of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan).
"His tunnel vision of the national landscape defies all legality and morality," she said.
Compared with APECO
Santiago said CEZA had received a total appropriation of P5.1 billion from 2008 to 2013, "without any significant contribution to the economy or the national treasury." She said the P890 million allocated for Port Irene is “extravagant” compared to the P300 million to P350 million that the Aurora Pacific Economic Zone and Freeport Authority will get next year.
The budget item for CEZA is "unconstitutional" and “in effect will become the pork barrel of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile" since he authored the law.
On the other hand, the economic zone in Aurora was created by a law authored by former Senator Edgardo Angara. It is being opposed by residents of Casiguran town.
A Senate panel initially scrapped the allocation for deepening the navigational channel of Port Irene to accommodate bigger ships. It was restored, however, after CEZA officials submitted a detailed cost-benefit analysis of the project, as required by Senator Sergio Osmena III. – Rappler.com