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Magic carpet lied

/ 05:10 AM December 21, 2017

Believe it or not, magic does happen in Congress.

One sensational trick

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took place in the 2018 national budget amounting to P3.7 trillion, hurriedly passed by Congress last week, as our beloved lawmakers had to take their much needed break after working hard for less than a month.

The most awaited feature of the 2018 budget would be its highest allocation ever for infrastructure, precisely under the program of motor-biking Duterte Harley called “Build, Build, Build.”

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Astonishingly, our lawmakers forgot all about the ongoing expansion and modernization of the Naga airport in Camarines Sur, which got a big fat round “zero” in the 2018 budget.

Instead, they gave a P225-million allocation to another airport project in the same province that would have to be started from “scratch.”

That would be the so-called San Jose airport project sponsored by Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella, who filed the bill (HB 1685) for it in July last year.

It would not be a lie to say that Congress thought it wise to spend P225 million on an airport without anything yet except some fairy tale magic carpet.

The town of San Jose belongs to the district called Partido, known as the Fuentebela country. The town happens to be more than 30 kilometers away from the commercial center of the province, the Naga-Pili area, precisely the location of the existing airport.

The Fuentebella bill justified the green field airport by citing what he called a “master plan” that declared the San Jose location to be the “safe alternative” to the existing airport.

The big mystery was that Congress did not consider the master plan approved by Neda for the province, which verified the Naga airport as the priority project. Also, the DOTr approved its modernization plan more than four years ago.

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The Aquino (Part II) administration did a study on four possible sites for the airport in the province and it concluded that the existing Naga airport was the most feasible location.

In the past four years, the existing airport was the one and only airport project there.

With the use of voodoo or something, our lawmakers decided it would make a lot of sense to put up a second airport in the same province just about 30 kilometers away from the existing airport.

Never mind that the existing airport already got some P670 billion funding in the 2015 budget, plus another P1 billion in 2016.

This year, Congress decided to give it a big zero budget.

Nobody in Congress even bothered to consult the people of CamSur.

From what I gathered, even LGU officials in the Partido district were against the emerging hilarious spectacle of the province with a population of less than two million having two airports—both unfinished.

Nobody could even say whether the San Jose airport project underwent even a semblance of an economic feasibility study.

It reportedly did not have the official approval of the regional development council.

Yet Congress gave it P225 million—just like that!

Well, this was the same group of conscientious people who just agreed on another eleventh-hour imposition: the increase in the excise tax on coal by some 1,500 percent.

Also without any public hearing!

This country only happens to depend on coal to produce electricity that accounts for roughly half of total power generated.

From what I gathered, power firms were not worried about the big tax increase. The law called Epira, also created by Congress, allowed them simply to pass on the tax to the public.

Not only that, we are the only country in this world of some 195 countries where the legislature could amend the basic Internal Revenue Code, which was opened up countless number of times so that our lawmakers could grant VAT exemptions to more than 150 lines.

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