87.5% of DPWH’s proposed 2023 budget to 'nationwide' projects questioned

Vivienne Gulla, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 27 2022 04:05 AM

Workers from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) repaint walls along the roads near Malacañang Palace in Manila on June 29, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File
Workers from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) repaint walls along the roads near Malacañang Palace in Manila on June 29, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA—A lawmaker questioned allocation of the bulk of the proposed 2023 budget for the Department of Public Works and Highways to “nationwide” projects.

According to ACT Teachers Party List Rep. France Castro, no region other than Metro Manila gets a DPWH budget share exceeding 2%.

Data presented by Castro showed that the proposed DPWH funding for “nationwide” projects next year dramatically increased to P628.2 billion or a share of 87.5%, from P3.69 billion or 0.5% share this 2022. 

DPWH’s budget sponsor at the lower chamber, Surigao del Sur 1st District Rep. Romeo Momo, however, explained that these funds will be distributed to regions and districts for specific projects.

“Bulto ng budget ng DPWH ay nasa central office… Walang allocation para sa local roads, bukod pa sa road tourism infrastructure program. Samantalang 33,479 kilometers lang o 18.9% ang total roads sa bansa ay paved,” Castro said during the House plenary debates on the proposed 2023 budget for the DPWH.

“The allocation is made by project, and almost all of these are downloaded and to be released to regions and districts. With regards to local roads. There are programs of the Department of Public Works and Highways, the convergence programs, these are roads that are local in nature, this will connect to the main national highways,” Momo explained.

“‘Yun talagang bulto ng CO (capital outlay) ay nakalagay doon sa central office. ‘Pag napasa po ang GAA (General Appropriations Act), hawak ito ng central office at ito ay nationwide, ibabahagi sa regions. Ito po ay ida-download sa regions, tama?” Castro clarified.

“Once the GAA is approved, automatic ‘yun i-implement kaagad ng regional and district offices. Hindi na kailangan ang SARO nito. Ito ay for current release… Lahat ng nakalagay doon na project na nasa mga distrito, at saka rehiyon, sila na mismo ang mag-implement,” Momo replied.

“The Department of Public Works and Highways, may ilalabas na department order, increasing the authority of the district office to P150 million,” he added.

Castro urged the DPWH to itemize the projects and include details. Momo said it has been done.

RIGHT OF WAY

The DPWH admits it has yet to fully settle the right of way for some projects implemented in the previous years, but is optimistic that with the proposed P37.5-billion ROW funding for next year, these arrears can finally be settled. Momo said a portion of this budget will cover the ROW for some farmlands affected by the construction of the Cavite-Laguna Expressway.

“May nagrereklamo na farm owners at farmers tungkol sa hindi pagbabayad ng ROW. May farmers na … ‘yung kinikita nilang P100,000 every month ay mawawala. Hindi compensable sa ibabayad ng DPWH,” Castro said.

“Totoong may claims pa na hindi nabayaran ng Department of Public Works and Highways dahil noong nakaraang budget, they have proposed a budget for ROW of P21 billion, unfortunately ang na-approve ay P1.1 billion lang, kaya marami ang payables na related to ROW ang ‘di pa nabayaran o na-settle ng Department of Public Works and Highways dahil na-slash ang budget ng ROW,” Momo replied.

“Kasama na apektado sa CALAX sa 2023 budget?” Castro asked.

"Kasama na ito sa hininging budget na P37.5 billion. Kaya nilakihan ngayon para ‘yung hindi nabayaran noong 2022, at pati 2023, ay mabayaran na natin lahat,” Momo responded.

He added that the proposed 2023 ROW budget will also cover the settlement of 86 families to be affected by the construction of ADB-funded bridges in Marikina City, and the 1,200 families to be displaced by the construction of bridges crossing the Pasig-Marikina River and Manggahan Floodway.

The House of Representatives terminated on Monday the plenary debates on the proposed 2023 budget for the DPWH.