MANILA -- Sen. Robin Padilla on Thursday questioned the effectiveness of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in addressing concerns on damaged infrastructure.
Padilla, during the Senate Finance committee’s deliberation of the DPWH’s proposed P718.4 billion budget for next year, showed photos of a collapsed school structure in Gapan, Nueva Ecija, which he said was caused by strong typhoons.
The heavily-damaged structure following typhoon Karding’s onslaught continues to loiter inside the school campus without any signs of an approaching DPWH help, he said.
"Wala po ba tayong paraan para alamin kung ang material po nito ay substandard? Yan ang tanong ko. Walang nag-che-ckup nito kung ito po ba ay substandard?" Padilla asked Public Works Secretary Manuel Bonoan.
Sen. Francis Tolentino said that destroyed school structures were also reported in other parts of Nueva Ecija, particularly in General Tinio and San Leonardo.
Bonoan initially said that their agency’s projects actually have a one-year warranty and contractors who construct weak structures will be fined.
The DPWH chief then assured Padilla that he would investigate the matter.
Sen. Cynthia Villar cut short the discussion by manifesting that verification on who constructed the damaged school facility in Gapan must be made first, since school buildings are either constructed by the DPWH or the local government unit concerned.
Villar’s son, now Sen. Mark Villar, used to head the DPWH.
Sen. JV Ejercito, for his part, scored the DPWH for coming up with a supposedly uneven road.
Ejercito said he was able to traverse a newly-completed bypass road along Aguinaldo Highway going to the Governor’s Drive in Cavite riding a motorcycle, which he said, was uneven and bumpy.
“It’s such a waste for projects like these. The new bypass is beautiful but I got dizzy,” Ejercito remarked.
For Senate Majority Leader Joel Villanueva and Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr., the DPWH should also focus its attention on the worsening flooding in various parts of the country.
Villanueva raised as well the issue of 3,180 unfilled positions in the DPWH, considering that the agency still has a total of 49,726 contractual and 22,457 “job order” personnel, according to the Civil Service Commission data.
“If you say a continuing policy which is to outsource, it is not acceptable… I hope you will be able to do something about it,” Villanueva told Bonoan.
Sen. Imee Marcos meantime told the agency to also consider in its projects the impact of climate change.
"We still have the old notion that we can actually change the course of the river, but the bitter lesson is we can’t fight mother nature. I see nothing on your budget that attempt to pilot some new technology,” Marcos said.
For Sen. Raffy Tulfo, the DPWH’s attention must also cover big contractors who usually participate in government’s public bidding but passes their bagged project to smaller contractors.
He likewise pressed for higher monetary compensation or “liability insurance” for victims of defective public works projects.
Tulfo said the coverage of said liability insurance must be at least P1 million per project.
“Maraming beses na pong nangyari na ang mga trabahador ay nadidisgrasya habang gumagawa ng kalsada – naputulan ng kamay o di kaya ay naipit ang paa ng heavy equipment, at mayroon ding mga motorista na nahulog sa kanal na hindi pa natakpan. May mga ibang biktima naman na namatay po... And yet, hindi po nababayaran. Pahirapan, paiyakan,” he pointed out.
Bonoan committed to look into the matter, and check the possibility of eventually increasing the liability insurance of contractors.
Villar, the Senate committee's vice chairman, confronted the DPWH about their “bought land” for the agency in Las Piñas City, which incidentally, is being barred by the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) because of the DPWH’s P4 billion debt to the PRA.
Bonoan said they have already reduced their “right of way” obligation to the PRA, and is now looking at fully settling the debt.
And in the event that the construction of an airport in Cavite and Bulacan pushes through, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano recommended to build separate parks that are dedicated for deposed president Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. and former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, Jr.
“My amended proposal, kalahati gawing park. Ferdinand Marcos, Sr. Business Park. Yung kalahati, Ninoy Aquino Business Park, para mag-compete yung mga negosyante. Competition works eh. Kaysa sa naga-away,” Cayetano said.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who was the last to ask questions, zeroed in on the Commission on Audit’s findings about the agency’s “liquidated damages” amounting to P6.11 billion.
The said amount, according to Bonoan, “came from the shortcomings of contractors.”
About 50 percent of the recoupment of the liquidated damages have been complied, leaving around P3.051 billion worth of still incomplete projects, he said.
Bonoan, meantime, described their agency’s proposed budget as one that was anchored on the “Build Better More” platform, which incidentally, represents the initials of President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. or BBM.
It is said to be an improved version of the Duterte administration’s infrastructure program Build Build Build.
The Senate subcommittee on Finance approved the DPWH’s proposed budget after more four hours of deliberation.