By Betheena Kae Unite
Four years from now, travel time in the Philippines will be cut drastically as almost all infrastructure projects under the Build, Build, Build (BBB) program of the Duterte administration will then be completed, Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar said.
Speaking at the Manila Bulletin Hot Seat Wednesday, Villar said that by 2020 half of the BBB projects will be completed while more than 80 percent of the projects will be ready by 2022, or by the time the term of President Duterte ends.
“By 2020, we’ll see half of the projects completed, by 2022, by the time the term of the president ends, halos lahat natapos na (almost all projects are done). And like I said, ibang-iba (it would be so different), you won’t even remember what it was like before sa laking pagbabago (because of the big improvement),” he said.
Travel time, he said, will be cut drastically as each expressway, bridge, and road widening is aimed at solving traffic congestion, primarily in the metropolis.
“I’m not saying this to make false promises. I’m telling you project by project and what’s my basis for saying that. I make that clear. I’m just telling you these are the projects, this is our plan and this is our timetable and you can hold me with that timetable,” Villar said.
To date, Villar reported that a total of 1,908 kilometers of roads have been widened, 328 kilometers of diversion roads have been constructed, 1, 316 kilometers of access roads have been upgraded, and 393 kilometers of missing gaps between national roads have been connected.
Luzon Spine Expressway
The Luzon Spine Expressway Network, composed of several expressways in Luzon, aims to shorten travel time from Manila to La Union and Ilocos to Bicol. These expressways, according to Villar, will double the length of existing expressways in the country from 382.26 kms to 834.72 kms.
Once completed, travel time from Metro Manila to San Fernando, La Union will be reduced from 6 hours and 55 minutes to 3 hours and 10 minutes. Travel time from Ilocos to Bicol will be reduced from 19 hours and 40 minutes to 8 hours and 15 minutes.
The expressways comprising the Luzon Spine Expressway Network are mostly ongoing and being studied.
The Tarlac-Pangasinan Expressway, Central Luzon Link Expressway, Arterial Plaridel Bypass Road, Southeast Metro Manila Expressway, NLEX Harbor Link, Metro Manila Skyway- Stage 3, NLEX-SLEX Connector, NAIAX, Cavite-Laguna Expressway, SLEX-TR4, Quezon-Bicol Expressway and Laguna Lake Highway complete the whole Luzon Spine.
Metro Manila Logistics Network
The Metro Manila Logistics Network which is composed of 12 new bridges within the metropolis is also aimed at providing alternative linkages between major thoroughfares and increases the number of usable roadways to free some space up in the overly-congested EDSA and other major roads.
Villar mentioned three bridges, namely: Bonifacio Global City- Ortigas Center Link Road Project, Binondo-Intramuros Bridge, and the Estrella-Pantaleon Bridge, that also aim to decongest traffic.
All three bridges are ongoing and are expected to be completed by 2020.
“I believe we have a pipeline that will significantly, in the next few years, reduce the traffic congestion and we have the pipeline that will allow the next government to finish what we started,” Villar said, mentioning other projects implemented in the Visayas and Mindanao region.
Meanwhile, the DPWH chief reported that the Boracay Circumferential Road, the island’s main road network, is now nearing completion.
Expanding the road, which was a narrow main road in Boracay, to an ideal 12-meter wide circumferential road was identified as the agency’s main task in the rehabilitation of Boracay Island, which is set to re-open next month.
The roads missing gap from ManocManoc to Yapak, Malay Aklan is now 72 percent completed. Section 1 Cabagan to Hue Hotel is now 32 percent completed while Section Hue Hotel to Elizade Compound is now 27.20 percent completed.
Sidewalks are also being constructed on the road to address the previous problem wherein motorists and pedestrian share the carriageway hampering mobility and posing danger to pedestrians.
Villar said they intend to continuously improve the circumferential road by covering additional kilometers next year.
Aside from completing the missing gap along the circumferential road, the DPWH is also in charge of clearing obstructions within the road’s 12-meter right-of-way.
So far, 161 structures have been totally demolished while 40 structures are partially demolished.
On corruption in the DPWH, Villar admitted that although “it is hard to find evidence” against erring DPWH officers and contractors, they will continue to run after them.
A task force to run after the low-performing contractors has been created, he said. Recently, the agency sent out 43 letters to various contractors demanding explanation as provided for under the law.
“Definitely, kung hindi nila ma-explain ‘yung reasons for delay, we will be blacklisting them,” Villar said.
“It is also very,very challenging because there is a process. We really need a task force to look for evidence,siyempre may mga pictures ‘yan. Kailangan under the law we have to allow them to have time to fix the issues. But definitely, we have started blacklisting,” he added.
Also recently, five DPWH officers were suspended for allegedly accepting a P4-million bribe from a contractor to secure project in the bidding.
“Anytime na may makita akonga nomalya, tatanggalinko, i-sususpend ko kasi we have to set an example that this is unacceptable. I wanna send this strong message, pati yung mga contractors,” Villar said.