Senators on Tuesday threatened to defer the budget of the National Electrification Agency (NEA) as they scored the agency for its failure to remove electric posts that are obstructing various roads and posing safety risks to commuters.
Senate minority leader Franklin Drilon said the matter is of great public concern—“a matter of safety and better use of public fund.”
“Because billions are poured into the widening of our road networks and, yet, these are wasted because there is no effort to remove these public hazards,” Drilon told NEA Administrator Edgardo Masongsong during the Senate hearing on the budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
“The attention you have given to this issue is not sufficient. You are not doing enough to solve this problem that poses great inconvenience and endangers the safety of motorists. This is a cause of headache and frustration,” he further told the NEA chief.
Sa gabi po maaksidente ka dahil mababangga mo itong mga poste na ito. Ginagawa rin lang na parking lots ang mga bagong kalsada dahil sa nakaharang na mga poste, sayang ang pera, (At night, you are in danger of meeting an accident, because of these electric posts. It is also being used by some as parking lots because these posts are in the way. It’s a waste of money),” the minority leader pointed out.
Recalling his experience in Iloilo, Drilon he had to go around and ask NEA and electric cooperatives to remove various electric posts in the middle of the newly widened roads going to Iloilo International Airport.
“Talagang hindi biru-biro ito (It was no joke). I had to go around begging and asking to have these electric posts removed. Kung pinabayaan ko lang iyon (If I just let it be), you would have a hundred posts right in the middle of the road as the roads were widened,” he said.
Senator Nancy Binay, for her part, said these electric posts should have been relocated first before the DPWH started its road-widening projects.
“Kasi di ba isipin niyo gawa na ‘yung kalsada, i-uusod niyo ‘yung poste so may butas doon ngayon na kailangan buhusan ng semento (If you think about it, the road is already done and you still have to move the electric posts. So it will leave a gaping hole again and you would have to pour more cement on it),” said Binay.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate finance sub-panel, and chair of the Senate energy committee, echoed Drilon and Binay’s concern, saying utility posts standing in the middle of a widened road makes the government’s road-widening programs “useless.”
Masongsong, however, assured that the relocation of these utility posts are already ongoing. According to NEA, P4-billion is needed to remove the existing utility poles on widened roads but only P400-million has been allocated for next year.
But Drilon said, that at this rate, it will take NEA 10 years to solve the issue.
“You look at your mandate. This is within your mandate but you take it for granted. If you could just put in a little bit of attention to this issue, the problem can be solved. This is a serious concern. I would like to see a faster and more definite program,” he told the NEA.
Drilon eventually asked the NEA to submit to the committee a concrete action plan and timetable, threatening to defer the agency’s proposed P1.81-billion budget for next year if it fails to do so.