• GILBERT P. BAYORAN
Mayor Salvador Escalante admitted that fuel expenses of the Cadiz City Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Office (CDRRMO) soared to millions of pesos during the COVID 19 pandemic.
Being the lead agency in handling COVID-19 response, Escalante said about 18 vehicles had been assigned to CDRRMO, some pulled out from various City Hall departments, to transport Locally Stranded Individuals, even from outside of the province, in an attempt to stop the spread of COVID-19 infections.
In the absence of public utility vehicles, the mayor said city government ambulances, which are under the supervision of CDRRMO, were used in the transport of dialyses patients, if there were requests.
Fogging machines mounted in trucks were also mobilized around to conduct fogging operations, while fuel was consumed by service vehicles of barangay used to transport patients to medical facilities, which was also charged to DRRMO, on top also the use of Bantay Dagat in transporting LSIs, Escalante added.
During the pandemic period, 30 percent was added to the pump prices of fuel they get from gas stations, paid by the city government after three months, which is still being allowed by the Commission on Audit, the mayor said.
So, the fuel expenses by the CDRRMO reached to about P24 million during the pandemic period, Escalante said.
From November last year to January this year, Escalante said they revised the system in purchasing fuel, by purchasing in advance and paying immediately. By doing so, they expect to generate 30 to 40 percent in savings, as vehicles initially placed under CDRRMO during the pandemic period have already been returned to their respective offices, he added.
By January this year, the fuel expenses of CDRRMO has been reduced to P500,000, from millions of pesos spent during the pandemic years.
The issue on fuel consumption into the open after Escalante transferred the head of CDRRMO – Noel Tan – to the City Sports Office, and assigned Engr. Ike Escares to the CDRRMO.
Escalante said they are now awaiting the results of the audit conducted by the Commission on Audit, which he expects to be released next month or April, aside from the routine performance audit conducted by the City Government.
Asked if the fuel expenses are “justifiable” during the pandemic period, Escalante said “in a way, being the lead agency, there were many movements of vehicles at that time, and I did not put any malice, since that was their function.”
If they cannot explain it, then government function will take it due course, said Escalante, who did not elaborate further.*