Lagonoy folks fear pull-out of Spain funded project pending Spanish Queen Sofia visit

The convent of the Siervas de Maria in Lagonoy, Camarines Sur. Regularly, the convent opens up her doors to give food to the hungry and treat the sick. PHOTO BY RUSSEL ROSERO
The convent of the Siervas de Maria in Lagonoy, Camarines Sur. Regularly, the convent opens up her doors to give food to the hungry and treat the sick. PHOTO BY RUSSEL ROSERO

By Joey Natividad
Special Correspondent

LAGONOY, Camarines Sur ( – Pending reports of Spanish Queen Sofia visit in the Bicol Region on first week of July, townsfolk here expressed fear that the Spanish Government might pull out its nursing-home project in Lagonoy town owing to the failure by the local government to give its counterpart-fund to the project.

Already embarrassed by the town’s failure are the vice-mayor and several councilors who already approved the budget and allocated funds of Php 675,000. as counterpart fund.

The town’s counterpart fund will go to the Spain-funded nursing-home/hospital project being undertaken by the religious congregation, Siervas De Maria Ministras De Los Enfermos of Madrid, Spain, which has a tie-up with the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for Development.

Some town officials here feared the failure to release the counterpart fund by the Mayor might convince the Spanish agency and the religious congregation to pull out its health and hospital projects.

Queen Sofia of Spain is on royal visit in the Philippines on July 2 – 6, to visit on development projects provided by Spain to the Philippines, and is also aimed at further strengthening long-standing relations between Spain and the Philippines. Spain has provided the Philippines official development aid, a yearly average of 30 million Euros from 2006 to 2010, or P6.389 billion, mostly in grants. Reports said the Spanish Queen will visit Albay Province and some areas in the Bicol Region.

The Siervas de Maria Ministras De Los Enfermos is the local implementing counterpart of the Foundation of Religious in Health Services (FRS) of Madrid. Spain.

The problem lies with the Office of the Mayor who failed to comply with the terms of the memorandum of agreement that was forged between the Local Government of Lagonoy represented by Mayor Delfin Pilapil, and the Siervas de Maria, represented by a nun, Mother Superior Sr. Maria Antonia Ventura, on November 12, 2010.

The Siervas de Maria, with funding from the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for Development, shall set-up and/or rehabilitate village water systems in the town’s 27 villages. It will build a medical center – a level 1 hospital, and assumes all expenses and medicines involved in a hospital operation; setting-up of nourishment centers for sick people in 38 villages; construction of 1,125 latrines for selected beneficiaries; training and hiring of midwives and nutrition agents and other related projects.

The project cost may reach up to PhP 100 Million, or over within a five-year period. At present, construction of the hospital site has started.

In turn, Lagonoy local government will provide PhP 675,000. a year as counterpart fund, beginning January 2011 up to January 2014. And, starting January 2015, the town government will allocate 1% of its annual Internal Revenue Allocation (IRA), estimated at PhP 820,000. yearly, for program feasibility and sustainability. The town will also provide technical support, data and research studies on health situation for beneficiaries.

“The problem on the failure to release the counterpart fund lies with the Mayor, whose fund release is under his executive discretion,” said Councilman Ricky Elen who notified the Sieras de Maria by letter on May 21, this year, that the fund was already approved and allocated by the town council. Councilman Elen is the chair of the finance, budget, and appropriation committee which evaluates the town’s budget.

Vice-Mayor Ben Saboco, who is presiding officer of the town council in session, said: “We strongly support the Siervas de Maria health program since the poor people here will benefit so much.”

The town officials felt embarrassed when the nuns had waited for and followed up the counterpart fund which was not released by the Mayor.

“What was shameful was that the Mayor’s office spent more than one million pesos for a one-week fiesta celebration but, refused to spend on health-care program which is already being shouldered mostly by the Spanish government,” said a Councilman, expressing dismay over the Mayor’s sense of priorities. []

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