Ex-congressman is now Capitol consultant

FORMER congressman Alfredo Benitez (left) administers the oath of office for his younger brother, Dr. Francisco ” Kiko” Benitez, who succeeded him as 3rd district representative. (Dolly Yasa)

By: Dolly Yasa

BACOLOD City – Former Negros Occidental third district congressman Alfredo “Albee” Benitez will continue to serve Negrenses as one of the top consultants at the Capitol.

Benitez announced during his State of the District Address (SODA) last week that he has accepted the consultancy post offered to him by Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson.

Benitez is now the economic and investments czar of the province on a pro-bono basis.

In his SODA, the former congressman expressed satisfaction with his performance in nine years as congressman with the implementation of the Negros Occidental Comprehensive Health Care Program (NOCHP) as his flagship program.

“Definitely, this is not goodbye,” Benitez said.

To recall, Benitez was being prodded to run for governor in May 2019 but he gave way to Lacson.

Benitez reported that 77,013 families in the third district were enrolled in the NOCHP and 123,036 individuals had been served.

The program was started in 2010 by the provincial government of Negros Occidental in tandem with Benitez and other Negros solons.

NOCHP provides free health services to its members upon confinement in government managed hospitals.

More than 300,000 families have been enrolled in NOCHP.

The Nikki Cares Foundation, which was organized by the former congressman’s wife, Nikki Benitez, in tandem with the Makati Medical Center and other private health care facilities as well as volunteer doctors and nurses, also offers free surgical services and medicines. The program benefited 854 patients since it was launched in 2017.

The actual cost of free surgical services is estimated at more than P30 million, Benitez added.

He also facilitated P53.3 million worth of medical assistance to two local hospitals in Negros, through the help of Department of Health. At the same time, P29.2 million worth of burial assistance was extended to 6,061 beneficiaries in the district.

Records also showed that the office of Benitez helped 14, 286 students who availed of his scholarship program, while 37 schools were given Alternative Learning Boards.

Benitez said he want his younger brother, Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez, to continue the programs he had started in the 3rd district, including those that have yet to be finished, stressing that he has the skills, talent and support of everyone.

In his nine years as congressman, Benitez reported that 214.7 kilometers of roads in the district had been constructed and rehabilitated, with a total budget of more than P6 billion, including the tourism loop project in Silay City, as well as the ongoing Bacolod-Negros Occidental economic highway.

This was on top of P1.2 billion worth of bridges that were constructed and P1.8 billion worth of flood control projects, in tandem with concerned government agencies.

30 kilometers of farm-to-market roads were also built, as well as farm-to-mill roads with a budget of P471.6 million.

Benitez also reported that 1,221 hectares of farms were irrigated in the district, construction of 77 barangay halls and 1,317 classrooms through the Department of Education and PAGCOR.

He also authored the Sugarcane Industry Development Act, which provides funds for the modernization of the sugar industry, and the creation of Department of Human Settlement, as the chairperson of the Committee on Housing and Urban Planning.

Rep. Jose Francisco Benitez, who admitted to be reluctant in joining politics, said that he is ready to face the challenges ahead of him, as he is also banking on the support of his brother.

There is much work to be done, the younger Benitez said, as he vowed to continue the transformation of the 3rd district started by his elder brother.