By Ben Serrano
Surigao City Mayor Engr. Ernesto “Nitoy” Matugas claimed quake victims are still awaiting the P2-billion aid promised by President Duterte after a devastating 6.7- magnitude earthquake hit the city and some parts of Surigao del Norte in February.
“In fact , there are rumors circulating but to me it is plain humor, intrigues that already P2-B aid promised by the President already arrived and we did not distribute it. Let me clarify and make it public. Not single centavo from the P2-B promised by Duterte arrived in our coffers. Up to now almost six months have passed many of the earthquake victims whose houses not totally repaired yet are still expecting the P2-B aid, ” Matugas said.
Matugas said he already sent clarification letters to the Department of Finance, Department of Budget and Management and the Office of the President about the promised billion peso assistance .
“But it seems we were given a run around replies and their answers have not clarified the issue well. This is the prime reason, I wrote said agencies so the public especially the victims will be clarified that we, I did not receive any of the promised P2-B aid. Yung iba nag-suspetsa, binulsa ko pa,” Matugas told Caraga News Courier .
In his February 12, 2017 visit, Duterte assured quake-weary residents that livelihood programs, housing, and medicines would be provided to them.
Duterte , who was then accompanied by Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, Education Secretary Leonor Briones, and Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno
even said the victims would have a choice either to buy house and lot in subdivision or build their own because he will leave P2-B in assistance funds.
But the following day, February 13, Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Martin Andanar denied that the President had pledged P2 billion in aid for quake victims.
Instead, they were earmarked to soften the impact of the closure and suspension of some 28 mines for environmental reasons, Andanar said.
But on February 14, Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella issued another clarification, saying that the earthquake victims who lost their homes and livelihoods would be assisted as promised by Duterte.
Abella, who was asked by reporters to clarify Andanar’s claim, initially agreed that the P2 billion was earmarked for miners who would be displaced by the closure of mines in Surigao.
But reading out part of Duterte’s speech Tuesday, Abella said the aid package was indeed for victims of the earthquake.
“The essence is that he would release the money and the funds in the needs of those affected by the earthquake victims..The primary source is [President Duterte] and he made a commitment to meet their needs,” Abella said in a Palace press briefing.