DPWH performance, project delays noted

By Manly M. Ugalde LEGAZPI CITY – The Department of Public Works and Highways in Bicol has not moved from its poor performance rating it obtained during the past months, according to the Project and Contract Management Application (PCMA). With the whopping P24.3B budget for 2017 for the region’s 16 district engineering offices, DPWH Regional Director Danilo Versola announced during Monday’s flag raising ceremony that Bicol’s performance rating has stayed on 6th place it obtained since July. Bicol used to enjoy impressive and top performance ratings in the past, particularly in the time of former Regional Directors Eleno Colinares and Orlando Roces, who are now both retired. Versola was former director of Region 8 before he was assigned here in March 8, this year. Former Marinduque District Engineer Esmeraldo Sarmiento came along with him as Assistant Regional Director for Bicol on same month. With the huge budget allocation for the Bicol Region, the 16 district engineering districts in Bicol are faced with massive road and bridge widening projects that spwaned traffic congestions in many parts of the region, including delays in implementation. Local officials claimed that traffic congestion was a result of simultaneous road concreting of both road sides (4th lane) and bridge widening while old obstructions in the road right-of-way re causing road accidents since the road widening projects started four years ago. For Albay alone, where the regional center is based in Legazpi, the Philippine National Police reported close to 8,000 road accidents covering the period 2015 - 2016. Certain local contractors, however, complained that delayed implementation of projects may be traced to favored contractors who have won too many projects for them to complete on contracted construction period. They said the DPWH knew the limits of the contractor’s manpower, equipment, and finances but still they continue to amass contracts at the behest of lawmakers and DPWH officials themselves. A DPWH regional executive speaking his name be withheld for lack of authority to talk, said there is one district engineering office where contractors refused to take projects because of alleged exorbitant “SOP” demand from a lawmaker concerned. SOP is the acronym for the Standard Operating Procedure, which is a sweet word for “kickback.” The source explained that said practice has been going on for decades where demands for kickbacks are so high that projects end in the hands of the lawmakers’ favored contractors, in connivance with the project engineer themselves. The regional office is implementing projects costing above P50M while district engineering offices implement those costing P50M and below. Former mayor for 25 years Jose Arcangel, 74, of Jovellar, Albay lashed at the apparent delay in the implementation because, according to them, the projects were not “distributed” according to the true capacity of contractors. distributed according to the capacity of the contractors. “My family have been regularly visiting the famous Joroan Church in Tiwi town with the widening of roads and bridges dominating the barely 45-kilometer long route in the first district of Albay province,” Arcangel said who added that many of these projects had been started long time ago. He noted that the controversial DSB Construction and Supply from the first district of Albay continues to dominate projects in the first district based on the posted billboards about the projects. According to documents obtained, the DPWH regional legal office had investigated numerous projects many of them were found operating in the project site with manpower and equipment used not actually belonging to the designated contractors. Contacted for comment, DPWH Regional Legal Officer Oliver Rodulfo admitted that many contractors are getting contract awards beyond their capacity to complete projects. He cited the controversial DSB Construction which reportedly has a record of having the most number of projects in other provinces, including the island provinces of Catanduanes and Masbate. Catanduanes local officials according to Rodulfo complained that the Virac airport extension project of the Department of Transportation under contract with DSB has been delayed for two years now. Rodulfo said the unfinished 6-year old P400M road project in Masbate, in joint venture with Yakal Construction and DSB Construction, has already been given a termination notice by the DPWH central office. A check with the Albay 1st District engineering showed DSB Construction getting more projects with funds allegedly sourced from the lawmakers’ so-called P70M each pork barrel fund allocation.