After more than two hours of public hearing, the Senate sub-committee ‘A’ decided on Tuesday, Oct. 19 to approve on the sub-committee level the proposed P686.11 billion budget of the Department of Public Works and Highway (DPWH) for 2022.
The decision by Senator Juan Edgardo ‘’Sonny’’ M. Angara, sub-committee chairman, to endorse the DPWH budget for Senate floor deliberation was seen as ‘’welcome gift’’ to DPWH Secretary Roger Mercado, a former congressman, who is on his third day today as DPWH chief, vice Mark Villar who left his DPWH post to seek a senatorial post.
Mercado said the strategic infrastructure program supports President Duterte’s flagship ‘’Build Build Build’’ projects.
DPWH Undersecretary Maria Catalina E. Cabral told senators that the DPWH built 29,264 kilometers of road from 2016 to 2020 at a cost of P2.5 trillion. This created jobs for 6.5 million workers.
The DPWH also completed 160,000 classrooms with 17,647 classrooms still on the ‘’on-going’’ stage.
It also built 2,436 kilometers of roads leading to tourism-designated areas and regional evacuation centers that also serve as COVID-19 quarantine centers.
It, likewise, built 704 kilometers of roads linked to industries and trade corridors and 443 kilometers of roads leading to air and seaports.
The DPWH also restated its multi-billion-peso Metro
Manila-EDSA decongestion program.
Senator Ramon Revilla Jr., former Senate public works committee chairman, pressed Mercado to solve the flooding woes of Cavite towns of Imus, Bacoor, Kawit and Noveleta.
While he said he would personally look into the Revilla proposal, Mercado said he would also look into other projects such as the proposed Paranaque spillway project.
Mercado said these would start under his watch to be followed up by the incoming administration .
DPWH Undersecretary Emil Sidain said the technical plans for the six-contract Bataan-Cavite bridge via Corregidor to be funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) are underway.
Three other inter-linked bridges are also being planned. These are the 3.7-kilometer Davao-Samal, Panay-Guimaras and 30-kilometer Tangub projects.
Cabral admitted DPWH delays in the prosecution of infrastructure projects caused by COVID-triggered lockdowns starting in March 2020.
She also said the DPWH leadership decided to decentralize its right-of-way functions to accelerate processing and resolutions of land acquisition problems.
Cabral said the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) gave support to the DPWH right-of-way cases by agreeing to the creation of positions for lawyers.
But Senator Imee Marcos noted that the DPWH still carried ‘’lump sum’’ appropriations.
Marcos also cited a World Bank report that 16 percent of the country’s 5,000 kilometers of roads are in poor condition.
The former Ilocos Norte governor noted that there are many issues on maintenance, adding that ‘’conditions of our roads is bad, not better.’’
Cabral maintained that 98 percent of the country’s national roads are paved but conceded that roads deteriorate over time.
‘’Maintenance is not our strength,’’ Angara noted.
As a former Aurora congressman, Angara strongly suggested that DPWH build adequate drainage facilities alongside roads.