Public works projects in Albay have no required info billboards

By Manly M. Ugalde LEGAZPI CITY --- Many of the ongoing public works projects in the region do not have the required billboards indicating basic information about the project, in violation of government rule and regulation on public information and transparency. Cost of ongoing and upcoming public works projects in Bicol has jumped to a whopping P74B under the 2018 General Appropriations Act. DPWH Regional Legal Officer Oliver Rodulfo said billboards are supposed to be posted on every project site as part of the bidding process that a contractor and the agency concerned including the Commission on Audit are mandated to provide in conspicuous spots for the public to know about the project. Early in March 2017, then newly appointed DPWH Regional Director for Bicol Danilo Versola was told by the local mediamen about the vanishing billboards on DPWH projects and at the same time the rampant presence of road obstructions whichVersola promised to act on. With more than a year now and only few months to finally retire from the servicein August this year, Versola failed to keep his promise even as many road accidents happened because of the toad obstructions. In Albay alone, the Philippine National Police reported close to 8,000 road accidents that happened during the period 2015-2016. As this developed, Secetary Eduardo M Ano of the Department of the Interior and Local Government called on all local government units to require contractors to properly notify the public through the billboards before commencing any road projects, or else face sanctions. Ano said President Duterte during a recent cabinet meeting in Malacanang was very much concerned about recurring complaints regarding stalled and ongoing road projects and the dangers they posed to the public. The DPWH has long embarked into massive road and bridge widening with the public unaware about it because of the absence oif billboards and at the same time of the required road warning signs. Contractors reasoned that the posting of billboards on projects provides basis for the New People’s Army (or extortionists) to exact corresponding amount as revolutionary taxation, as such billboard indicates the cost of the project to help them determine how much to collect), the name of the contractor (from whom they can collect) and the date of start and completion of the project (though which case the NPA will be forewarned of the exclusive timetable to collect). This allegation, however, had been strongly disputed before his ambush in 2012 by then former Bicol NPA commander and Regional Party Committee chairman Sotero Llamas who told journalists at the Legazpi airport that the project billboards containing vital brief information for the public to know is actually disliked by DPWH engineers, politicians and their favored contractors to avoid public scrutiny. According to Llamas then, the DPWH cannot hide information about the projects because they canbe accessed through the website. Billboards will help the general public access, too, quick information about projects ongoing in their communities, which is a paramount responsibility of the government. To appease the complaining public, the regional director lately ordered the posting of a plywood-sized billboard inside the DPWH regional premises to serve as an example. But alas, the billboard found installed at the DPWH regional office int Barangay Rawis about an ongoing asphalt overlay project under implementation by the Albay 2nd District Engineering does not contain information as to the project date completion, project cost, among other related data. Curiously, on entering the Albay first district are two bridge constructions in Barangay San Lorenzo, Tabaco City without a posted billboard. Some 400-meters away to the Tabaco City poblacion, meanwhile, the barely started San Ramon Bridge widening has posted a billboard which reads: “DPWH Albay 1 st District Engineering as implementing agency under 2016 General Appropriation Act.” Also indicated is “Date started Dec. 8, 2016 with June 10, 2017 the date of completion, with CTC Builder as the name of the contractor. The billboard, however, did not mention the amount of the contract. In another instance, also in Tabaco City, construction of the detour route of the San Ramon Bridge was only started last January 15, 2018. It is two years delayed based on the information provided in the posted billboard. Two weeks later, the word “Date started (Dec. 8, 2016)” as originally contained in the billboard was deleted.