15 Pampanga mayors fly to Hong Kong for ‘bonding’
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines — At least 15 of the 21 mayors in Pampanga province left for a four-day stay in Hong Kong and Macau on Wednesday, travel orders obtained by the Philippine Daily Inquirer from capitol sources showed.
One of the mayors who backed out from the trip said the purpose of the visit was for “bonding.”
“We never really had time to bond. It’s been all work. We planned to take time out together since last year but it never pushed through. We schedule it now because we won’t have time again when floods come around,” said the official, who did not want to be named. He said he might antagonize his colleagues.
One of the mayors confirmed they left on an 8 a.m. flight via the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Another official said they availed of a bargain tour package.
In the travel orders approved by Governor Eddie Panlilio at various dates since July 19, the mayors said their trip was “personal” and that “no government funds” would be spent in their trips.
Panlilio said he approved the request because the mayors “have the right to travel.”
The secretary of the Pampanga Mayors’ League, Sticky Blanco, joined the local executives in their trip that came on the second month of their reelection or fresh terms.
The officials who got permits to travel abroad were Mayors Edgardo Flores of Minalin, Nardo Velasco of Sasmuan, Teddy Tumang of Mexico, Yolando Pineda of Sta. Rita, Jerry Pelayo of Candaba, Lyndon Cunanan of Magalang, Ricardo Rivera of Guagua, Romeo Dungca of Bacolor, Rodrigo Canlas of San Simon, Joselito Naguit of Sto. Tomas, Marino Morales of Mabalacat, Luis Espino of Arayat, Dennis Pineda of Lubao, Oscar Tetangco Jr. of Apalit and Peter Flores of Masantol.
Six of the officials got travel orders covering Hong Kong and Macau.
The Inquirer learned some of the mayors brought along their wives.
Before departing, one of the mayors sent a text message to the Inquirer to say that he and the rest “spent their own money for the trip.”
It was his way of denying that a third party, a top politician, had allegedly shouldered the cost of the vacation.
Those who did not join the trip were Mayors Rommel Concepcion of Sta. Ana, Jayson Sagum of San Luis, Oscar Rodriguez of the City of San Fernando, Leonardo Flores of Macabebe, Roger Santos of Porac and Eduardo Guerrero of Floridablanca.
The Inquirer learned this was the first time that the current crop of Pampanga mayors went on a foreign trip together.
Hong Kong jaunts have become popular among capitol officials.
Before the May 7, 2007 elections, almost all 30 department heads at the capitol went to the former British colony, supposedly on the sponsorship of former governor Mark Lapid. He had denied paying for the fare and shopping money.
Board members then left for Hong Kong for a three-day vacation.
On the recent trip of the mayors, the Inquirer received at least five text messages explaining the trip.
On top of their monthly salaries of not less than P25,000, most mayors in Pampanga earn income as farmers, contractors or traders.
On August 9, 12 provincial board members are due to leave for a three-day stay in Hong Kong. Capitol sources said the trip was going to be sponsored by a Pampanga congressman.