Biñan not ready for ‘big one’ -- Commission on Audit

Walfredo ‘Arman’ Dimaguila

THE “inability” of the local government of Biñan under Mayor Walfredo ‘Arman’ Dimaguila, to “fully maximize” the money it set aside to prepare for disasters and calamities in 2017 has put the entire city and its residents at risk of the “dangers of potential hazards and disasters.”

This was the gist of the report by the Commission on Audit (COA) that it submitted to Dimaguila last June 20, 2018 thru Dir. Mario Lipana.

“The inability to fully maximize the 70 percent Mitigation Fund has deprived the city (Biñan) the opportunity to upgrade its disaster resiliency level and exposed the populace to dangers of potential hazards and disasters,” the report pointed out.

State auditors arrived at the conclusion after conducting their audit of the city’s ‘Mitigation Fund’ for 2017 and discovered that only 38 percent, or some P50 million from its P130 million fund was actually spent by Biñan for disaster preparedness.

The shocking detail was among the 23 violations of government regulations (“observations”) by Biñan for 2017 that Dimaguila received from the COA.

Its revelation came at a time when the country is already experiencing nearly daily tremors of differing magnitude since April 22, when a 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck Luzon and killed 11 people and damaged properties worth millions of pesos.

Particularly for Biñan, the threat of being a victim of the so-called ‘Big One’ (Magnitude 7 earthquake or higher) is very real as it is part of the ‘West Valley Fault’ in Luzon that traverses the provinces of Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite and Laguna.

The feared ‘Big One’ has gained urgency as another earthquake measuring 5.5 in magnitude jolted Rizal and Mindoro on Saturday while a 5.8 magnitude earthquake jolted Ilocos Norte yesterday.

The COA report on Biñan’s unpreparedness for the ‘Big One’ has caused both fear and anger on some residents who had filed a complaint before Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo M. Año last April 11.

The complaint, signed by at least 50 residents from 3 Biñan villages, called on the DILG to investigate the recorded 85 foreign trips lodged by Dimaguila, Vice Mayor Angelo Alonte and 8 of their allies in the city council in the last 3 years.

These trips were made despite the ban on foreign junkets ordered by the DILG and Pres. Rodrigo Duterte on all government officials to include those in the local government units (LGUs).

In a radio interview on Sunday, DILG undersecretary Jonathan Malaya assured they “would look into” the complaint, adding even they at the DILG are “banned” from any travel junket, based on EO 77 signed by Pres. Duterte last March.

EO 77 stipulates local and foreign travels that is only allowed by law and strictly prohibits any “travel junket” here and abroad.

Aside from Biñan’s unreadiness to prepare for the ‘Big One,’ the media had already reported on other major adverse findings by state auditors against the administration of Dimaguila.

These include the P1.3 billion “missing” assets of Biñan (plants, properties and equipment) and the city’s inability to pay off its debts and other obligations despite the increase in its 2017 income compared to the previous year.