8:21 pm | Thursday, October 10th, 2013
MANILA, Philippines — The controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program has been paying for Philippine Coast Guard patrols at Bajo de Masinloc off Zambales province, as well as in other disputed areas in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya said Thursday.
“We looked through our records and the discussion on the DAP. There were funds released to the PCG in September 2012. Forty-four million [pesos] was released as additional MOOE (maintenance and other operating expenses) for the patrol operations at Bajo de Masinloc,” said Abaya, who was guest of honor at the PCG’s 112th anniversary celebration on Thursday.
“Likewise, P105 million was allocated for the capability requirements of PCG operations in the West Philippine Sea,” he added.
The Bajo de Masinloc, also known as Panatag Shoal and internationally as Scarborough Shoal, is at the center of a territorial dispute between the Philippines and China, with the Philippines bringing the dispute to a United Nations tribunal for arbitration.
Concrete blocks that could be used to anchor construction posts had been sighted at the shoal recently. Last year, Chinese fishing vessels were discovered illegally poaching endemic Philippine marine species in its waters. A standoff ensued when Philippine authorities were prevented from apprehending the fishermen by Chinese navy ships that blocked them.
China has also been claiming nearly all of the South China Sea, parts of which the Philippines calls the West Philippine Sea, including the Spratlys group of islands which is located off Palawan within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone. Four other countries also claim parts of the Spratlys–Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam and Taiwan.
Abaya defended the DAP, saying that it was designed to realign savings for immediately needed government projects.
“The DAP is not an appropriation item. It is not something we would see in the budget. It is a good financial management policy to spend money for immediately needed and implementable programs rather than revert it back to treasury,” he said.
Apart from PCG patrols, the transportation secretary said the DAP is paying for new Metro Rail Transit coaches as well as the rehabilitation of Light Rail Transit Lines 1 and 2.
“The PCG is able to perform its mission in patrolling Bajo de Masinloc because of the DAP. The PCG is able to repair its ships in order to patrol the West Philippine Sea because of the DAP. [People] are able to ride the MRT and LRT because of the DAP,” he said.
“Essentially the issue here is who stole the money of the people. Some of our friends are confusing us. All they are saying is that all of us in the government are thieves … but there is a big difference in spending to serve the people and stealing,” he said.
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