DRT can host a national prison facility—Gov. Fernando

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CITY OF MALOLOS—Bulacan Gov. Daniel Fernando offers a free use of a provincial government owned lot property in the mountainous town of Dona Remedios Trinidad (DRT) to become one of the future sites of a major Luzon prison facilities of the Bureau of Correction (BuCor) to help decongest the national penitentiary. 

Fernando in a media interview during a recent provincial government first quarter of the year peace and order council meeting here on Friday said the Provincial Government of Bulacan (PGB) owns more than 1,000 hectares of land in different areas in DRT. 

He said while the Breeding and Productivity Center of PGB will be constructed in an area within a separate lot property of the PGB in DRT, there is still more than 1,000 hectares that could be used for other major projects. 

He told NEWS CORE that the national government can provide the budget for the prison facility while the PGB can allow the usage of its lot property without needing to buy or acquire it. The governor said that there will be a memorandum of agreement for the land usage. 

“Meron ang PGB na 1,000 hectares sa iba’t ibang lugar sa DRT. Kung bubudgetan nila walang problema. Pwede naman nating I-offer yung provincial lot, hindi naman ibebenta, mag-MOA tayo sa kanila,” the governor said. 

According to the governor, there is a proposed P4-billion worth Bulacan Provincial Jail facility the PGB submitted to the Office of the President last year to address its congestion concerns.

He said the project which he conceptualized since his first term in 2019 would give Bulakenyo detainees a wide day to day facility, will make them become more productive and would help them to be more physically healthy. 

According to Bulacan Provincial Warden Rizalino Andaya, the proposed P4-billion jail facility in DRT will be constructed in a 10-hectare lot property which can accommodate 5,000 detainees. 

Andaya, a retired police colonel said the new jail facility of the province will be a state of the art structure complete with hospital, receiving area and a diagnostic center.

The Bulacan Provincial Jail also known as “Lex” which was built more than 6 decades ago can only accommodate more than 1,000 inmates but has been filled with up to nearly 5,000 detainees particularly during the recent years. 

The pandemic in 2020 started to decrease the number of detainees including the plea bargaining on drug cases and also due to regional trial court efforts to hasten up the hearings of the charges against the detainees.  Today, Lex has only 1,581 detainees, 1,396 male and 185 female.   

Bulacan with more than 3.7 million population is the largest province in Central Luzon. 

“First term ko pa lang gumawa na ako ng proposal na ilipat ang provincial jail natin sa lupa ng Kapitolyo sa DRT para matanggal na dito iyong kulungan, o iyang ating Lex dahil ang gusto ko maging kapaki-pakinabang ang mga detainees natin, maging involve sila sa agriculture, mag-alaga sila ng mga hayop, kambing, kalabaw, baboy, bibe, manok at hindi handicrafts lang tulad ng ginagawa nila ngayon. Nagkakasakit din ang mga preso dahil hindi sila naarawan. Pero kailangan natin ng budget,” the governor said. 

BuCor Director General Gregorio Catapang Jr. in a recent decongestion summit presentation presents DRT as an alternative Luzon penal facility other than the already existing Sablayan colony in Occidental Mindoro under the Long Term Development Plan 2023-2040 of the agency to help decongest the national penitentiary facility in Muntinlupa City. 

The facilities will include one in Bacolod City in Negros Occidental for the Visayas and one in Bukidnon in Northern Mindanao for Mindanao. 

The facilities will be called “Supermax” for inmates convicted of heinous crimes. 

The National Decongestion Summit was spearheaded by the Justice Sector Coordinating Council (JSCC) comprising the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice and the Department of Interior and Local Government which seeks to tackle jail overcrowding and foster a more humane criminal justice system. 

The summit is jointly sponsored by the European Union’s Justice Sector Reform Programme: Governance in Justice II (GOJUST II) and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), with funding from the Australian Government and the European Union. Dec. 6-7 in Manila. 

Catapang has been promoting BuCor’s “Sa Likod ng Rehas, may Panibagong Bukas,” thrust for the inmates. 

DRT because of its pristine nature and mountainous sites, various falls and rivers is considered the tourism capital of Bulacan. It is a favorite mountain trekking, camping, glamping, hiking, swimming and other nature-adventure destinations and activities. 

Bulacan provincial tourism officer Eliseo Dela Cruz said DRT which is about 60 km east of Metro Manila and has a land area of 932.96 square kilometers or 360.22 square miles which constitutes 33.52% of Bulacan’s 279,610 total area is known over the years as the “Tagaytay” of the north. 

DRT is 31km east from the Bulacan Capitol in the City of Malolos. 

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