“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality,” said American author Warren Bennis.
I remember when senatorial aspirant and former Secretary Mark Villar was appointed to lead the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), many were skeptical, even critical of his capacity to be at the helm of DPWH.
Five years into the job, the DPWH under his leadership was able to build 29,264 kilometers of roads, 5,950 bridges, 11,340 evacuation centers, 150,149 classrooms, 214 airport projects, and 451 seaport projects. This is him leading the people of the department, ensuring that contractors comply with their obligations, and inspiring the 6.5 million Filipino workers under “Build, Build, Build” to give their best.
Secretary Mark was that leader who turned computer-generated images, which were once used to present a vision, into actual roads, bridges, airports, and flood control projects that benefit the people.
His accomplishments are no easy feat, especially as he had to continue with the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure projects amid the pandemic — doing so meant that more projects would be done on time, and that more Filipinos would continue to have jobs.
His vision is clear — improve the country’s road network infrastructure so that we create more jobs through construction, increase productivity through reduced travel time, provide access to basic needs and livelihood opportunities through connectivity. All of these would lead to a more robust economy.
Aside from having the right vision, Sec. Mark knew what needs to be done to get things going. He started with identifying the challenges — right of way (ROW) issues, ghost projects, delays.
He eliminated ghost projects by adopting drone and satellite technology, using a geotagging system to monitor DPWH projects real time.
He solved right of way issues by decentralizing the ROW acquisition functions and delegating the duties and responsibilities to the various implementing units, and streamlining the ROW documentary requirements on ROW payment and processing by removing outdated and misplaced requirements.
In effect, targets were met. For instance, the DPWH acquired 100 percent possession of the site of the NLEX Harbor Link Project Segment 10 after just one year and seven months. Prior to this, acquisition was only at one percent per month. The 5.58-km expressway connecting MacArthur Highway and C3 Road was completed in April 2019, reducing travel time from Valenzuela City to C3 Caloocan City from more than an hour to only five minutes, benefitting some 20,000 motorists every day.
He resolved the delays by keeping track of projects and doing surprise inspections, like what he did to ensure the timely completion of the Maysilo Mandaluyong Flood Control Project. Sec. Mark gave the contractor the ultimatum to finish the project on time or swim in the Maysilo flood. The Maysilo drainage project was completed and it was made the basis for Department Order 193, which provided guidelines on contracts with negative slippages.
Infrastructure, jobs, growth
What did the Filipino people gain from Sec. Mark’s accomplishments?
Farmers who want to deliver their agricultural products to Manila or Tuguegarao would not have to take the 74-km detour whenever it rains.
Travel from Makati to Quezon City is now within 20 minutes, and travel time from the southernmost part of Metro Manila to the northernmost part has been reduced from two hours to 30 minutes — all because of the implementation of the Skyway Stage 3 project.
The Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway connected Manila to Baguio within a three-hour travel period.
Communities in Yolanda-affected areas in Tacloban, Palo, and Tanauan are now protected from similar storm surges with the completion of the Leyte Tide Embankment Project.
The people of Marawi have regained access to basic services and goods with the rehabilitation of the Marawi Transcentral Roads.
For Sec. Mark, these and all other projects that were completed, as well as all ongoing projects under “Build, Build, Build,” are meant to improve the lives of the Filipino people — by pump priming the economy through infrastructure spending; by providing employment to 6.5 million Filipinos; by increasing the productive capacity of roads, ports, and airports; by promoting countryside growth through the various infrastructure projects in the regions; by decongesting busy city roads so that Filipinos would have more time with their families.
Sec. Mark not only translated vision into reality, but also made sure that every Filipino would benefit from it.