Delay in World Bank loan approval derails Bicol river basin project
By Mar Arguelles
Naga City (14 August) -- The implementation of the P3.7 billion Bicol River Basin Watershed and Management Project (BRBWMP) would be derailed unless the World Bank (WB) approves the loan grant to finance the six-year development project.
Presidential Assistant for Bicol, Tomasito Monzon, concurrent BRBWMP project director said, the project implementation had been on track but express dismay over the delay by WB authorities in the approval of its loan commitment that would greatly affect the time frame of the project.
Monzon said, "despite several official communications including personal follow-ups with WB authorities our concern for the approval of the soft loan grant had fallen into deaf ears."
The BRBWMP is a P3.7 billion project funded by the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) with P2.5 billion and the World Bank with P1.2 billion soft loan grant.
The approval of the P1.2 billion soft loan would spur the time line of the project since the GRP counterpart fund are now allocated in the General Appropriation Act of 2007 and 2008 to national line agency involved in the project, Monzon explained.
Monzon said that the WB loan grant was a bank pledge since 2004 when the project was revived but because of stringent and unreasonable requirements being asked, the approval of the loan had been put on hold.
The irony of it according to Monzon is that the WB had commissioned Nippon Koie, a Japanese consultancy firm, to conduct a feasibility study on the flood control of the BRBWMP project, but the bank required the Project Management Office (PMO) to again conduct a similar feasibility study.
"Imagine we thought that the FS conducted by the Japanese consultancy firm hired by them was approved and now they are again asking as to conduct another similar study," Monzon averred.
The BRBWMP a project under the Office of the President, aims to institutionalize an integrated river basin and watershed management approach that will improve the quality of life of communities within the stretch of the Bicol River Basin.
BRBWMP traverses 37 towns, four cities and will cover a drainage area of 317,389 hectares in the provinces of Camarines Sur with 26 towns and two cities, Albay with seven towns and two cities, and Camarines Norte with only four towns.
The 6-year development initiative will focus on four project components: Flood and Hazard Mitigation (FHM); Watershed Management and Development (WMD), Irrigation Modernization (IM) and Institutional Development (ID).
The project carries a funding requirement under the FHM -P1.8 billion, WMD –P827 million, IM - P214 million, ID – P275 million and contingencies of P617 million.
Presently, some P33 million and P129 million, respectively, were allocated for the project's watershed and reforestation with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) as the implementing agency while another P200 million was allocated for flood control to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Monzon said P100 million outlay in 2007 is being used to finance on going repair and improvement of existing flood protection system in the Libmanan-Cabusao, Naga-Calabanga in Camarines Sur, and Quinale-Talisay in Albay.
The project once completed would restore the productive potentials of fast denuding forests in Bicol, enforce effective flood control measures to reduce the incidences of loss of lives and properties of communities in the most vulnerable areas.
And for the benefit of the agriculture sector the National Irrigation Adminstration (NIA) is set to modernize the Tigman-Hinagyaman-Inarihan River Irrigation System (THIRIS) in Camarines Sur. (PIA) [top]