BULAN, SORSOGON. –  This town’s former mayor, Guillermo De Castro, lashed back at critics of his wife’s multi-million peso project in Bulan when the latter was asked to produce documents and records of the controversial centralized bus terminal or CBT.

      Critics of the proposed centralized bus terminal (CBT) project were practically bullied by the ex-mayor during the supposed “public hearing” held last week, October 1, 2007, at the terminal’s new site in Barangay Fabrica.

      Atty. Oscar Deri, a former legal consultant of then Mayor De Castro and vice governor of the province, was reportedly insulted by De Castro when he questioned the propriety of the CBT project. Instead of addressing the questions raised by Deri and most of the affected parties, like the tricycle and pedicab drivers and operators, De Castro derided them saying they (the people) should even be thankful his family donated the land where the CBT is built.

      De Castro is referring to the “conditional” donation made by his mother of a tenanted rice land in barangay Fabrica. The land, according to those who have read the conditions of the donation, will revert back to its owners should it cease to be used as a CBT.

      CBT critics considered this condition as a “convenient ploy” for the De Castros to get back the land after millions of pesos are spent to develop it.

      In the proposed scheme of the CBT project, the Municipality of Bulan will build the terminal for P40Million sourced either through bond flotation or bank loan from the Land Bank of the Philippines. The rate of interest, according to the proponent municipality will be 100 per cent or the municipality will be indebted to the LandBank for P80Million and will be payable in 5 years.

      Former Vice Mayor Albino Guyala III said, the De Castros knew that a bus terminal 5 kilometers away from the poblacion is bound to flop as what happened in the terminals of Lucena and Naga cities.

      Bulan hosts to less than 25 air conditioned and non-air conditioned Manila bound buses and a few provincial ones. Unlike Naga and Lucena, Bulan’s proposed terminal is not within the Maharlika Highway where buses from Mindanao and the Visayas would be expected to contribute to its revenue. Only the said 20 or so buses will be the terminal’s patrons.

      “Natural, pagpumalpak ito (the CBT) at di ginagamit bilang terminal, as provided for in the donation, magse-set-in ang condition nang reversion. Balik sa mga De Castro ang lupa. Papano ngayon ang milyung pisong ginastos dito. Sino ang makikinabang sa perang ito?”, the former vice mayor asked.

     “Kaya nga nagtatanong kami, bakit ba kailangang sa lupa ng mga De Castro itayo ang terminal, at bakit pagkalayo-layo?, he added. “At bakit ito naitayo kaagad ng wala munang masusing pagaaral na ginawa, at higit sa lahat bakit wala ni isa man lang public hearing na ipinatawag? Sino ba ang mabebenipisyuhan ng CBT project na ito?

      In an interview aired over DWBS-FM’s “Radyo Patrol Bulan” this morning (Oct. 10), De Castro admitted the conditional nature of the land donation. He said this is just fair since the local government will not pay any rental for the use of the land and that it is only proper that it be reverted back to them after a few years.

      Guyala found this reasoning flawed. A donation, according to him, is supposed to be gratuituous in nature which means the donor does not expect any payment or benefit in return. But with the terms of the donation it would seem that the local government of Bulan is allowed to use the De Castro property for a rental of P80Million in terms of the improvement that will be introduced on it.

      “From such an arrangement, it is very clear that the Sanguniang Bayan of Bulan and Mayor Helen De Castro placed the local government of Bulan into a very disadvantageous position by agreeing to spend P80Million for a limited use (akin to lease or usufruct) of a mere hectare of agricultural land. The Municipality of Bulan would have been in a better position had it just bought the property than fall into this financial snare”, Guyala pointed out. “

      Deri and Guyala were asking for documents showing that the local government complied with pertinent laws in building the CBT on a parcel of rice land owned by the De Castros. They are also asking for a copy, if any, of a Department of Agrarian Reform-approved conversion of the land from agricultural tenanted land to commercial land to see to it that no agricultural tenants were displaced and no laws were violated.

      The former mayor, however, dealt on personalities rather than address these valid questions.

      “Ang pinagtataka ko lang, bakit ba si Guiming ang humaharap sa amin? Nasaan ba ang mayor? Hindi ba’t matagal nang natapos ang term ni Guiming sa Bulan? Baka naman may hang-over pa si Guiming”,  the former vice mayor quipped.

      With the way this CBT project is being handled many observers likened it to the ZTE scam. Both have phonetically sounding alphabets, and the only difference lies on Bulan’s first gentleman’s public admission of his involvement in the project.