DAET GARBAGE ISSUE | Sarion blames Ochoa; Ochoa to request for state audit of funds

Former Mayor Tito Sarion (left), incumbent Mayor Benito Ochoa (right)

DAET, Camarines Norte—“The ball is now in the hands of the new administration. Actually, before I left the office, I sought for a meeting with then incoming Mayor Ochoa so he could be briefed on the subject, but he just snubbed my invitation.”

Those were the statements relayed to BICOL STANDARD by former Mayor Tito S. Sarion, in reply to the complaints aired by residents regarding the piling of uncollected garbage that has compromised the health and sanitation of this growing municipality.

It will be recalled that a Php 20-million fund was borrowed by the LGU from the Land Bank of the Philippines to finance the project during his last term as mayor of this capital town.

The implementation of the project was awarded to Ecogreen Valiant Alternatives Corporation through a negotiated contract. This means that there was no competitive bidding.

The multi-million budget was split into two major items. The first Php10 million was for Supply and Installation of Fiber Reinforced Plastic Board System (FRPBS) for non-biodegradable wastes.

The other Php10 million was earmarked for Supply and Installation of Quick Composting System (QCS) for Biodegradable wastes.

Concerned residents and employees here said that although the supplier was paid Php18 million, said project is not operational up to the present.

Out of the Pnp 20 million, only Php 2 million is left, which is the amount allocated for retention.

BICOL STANDARD’s source confirmed that the multi-million equipment for the garbage project are just left idle and have been suffering from the daily wear and tear.

Meanwhile, contrary to the claim of Sarion that all the items in the contract has been fully delivered by the contractor/supplier, and tested prior to the full payment, Mary Ann Roxas said otherwise.

Roxas claims to be the duly authorized representative of the corporation, based on her letter dated June 21, 2016, Roxas addressed Sarion. In the said letter, she informed former Mayor Sarion: “Heeding to the suggestion of your good office, Ecogreen respectfully informs you that in three (3) instances and on various dates, particularly between the months of May and June 2016, Ecogreen attempted to provide technical assistance at site in your Materials Recovery Facility. Unfortunately and to our surprise, our technical crews was prevented neither access nor permission to do its work. Mr. Rene Rosales, the one in charge of solid waste management, did not even give us the courtesy to inform us the reason for the rejection.”

Based on the said letter, the project is not yet complete.

Furthermore, the same informant pointed out that under the said contract, Ecogreen Valiant Alternatives is obliged to give technical training and technology transfer to the LGU. This has a total allocation of Php 550,000.00 for the two projects. Until now, there is no training yet, but the entire amount was already paid last year, the informant said.

In a statement, Sarion answered the question raised by a municipal employee on why the contractor, Ecogreen Valiant Alternatives Corporation, had already been paid “except for the remaining balance and retention money of Php2-million.”

“The contractor had already delivered the machineries and equipment and the facility and the equipment were already functional even before I stepped down, so what was left as a responsibility on our part was to pay,” Sarion explained.

“The payment had been pre-audited by the Commission on Audit which found the procurement of the said equipment in order,” he added.

He explained that he ordered the withholding of the PhP2 million as advised by then Municipal Legal Counsel, Atty. Reynante R. Vibal, on account of the internal management squabble in the corporation.

In his answer to the Mayor’s query on the subject, Vibal advised “not to deal with either party unless both parties have agreed in writing as to who shall properly represent their corporation.”

Sarion reiterated the same stand to Councilor Elmer Bacuno, the Chairman of the Sangguniang Bayan Committee on Environment, in a letter dated 28 June 2016.

“Our Municipal Legal Officer advised us that Ecogreen Valiant Alternative Corporation should put their house in order first before we pay the Php2million retention fee as one of its officers is demanding; hence, our decision to defer the same,” he told Bacuno.

Meanwhile, after the Ulat sa Bayan last Monday, Mayor Ochoa said that he has referred the matter regarding the garbage problem to Ronaldo A. Paguiringan, the Municipal Administrator of the town. He (Paguiringan) said they are focused in solving other pressing problems of the town.

"Regarding the alleged misuse of funds, it is our consensus to request for a comprehensive audit of all funds, including the Php 20 million loan which is now the subject of controversy," he said.