INFRASTRUCTURE development is a priority of the Marcos administration with P1.196 trillion budget for 2023 wherein P718 billion went to the DPWH. I have no doubt on the resolve of this government in this area of budgeting because PBBM knows well its very significant role in the national economic progress.
For 2024, the DPWH will have P822.2 billion, of which P115.588 billion allocated for the maintenance of national roads and the repair of about 800 kilometers of damaged roads once it gets approved by the President.
Most projects are on track, although a few of the major ones, specifically the railways from NCR to Bicol Region and the much delayed Mindanao railways, despite its projected economic benefits to the country, are not moving. Funding is the issue.
The NCR-Bicol Region Railway project would have been a manna in itself, but appears to have been sabotaged by the Chinese government. Xi Jinping promised providing the funds but so-called “geo-political developments” provided the dictator an alibi to back off and derail the implementation of the long dreamed sweet long haul trip to Bicolandia.
As planned, with PNR’s improved and expanded new rail track and locomotives, travel will be reduced from about 16 hours to just 4.5 hours. That’s a great leap and certainly, would push speedier national economic development, and we all look forward to its realization.
Frustratingly, while the rail project remained a dream, the land travel option from the North passing through the Quezon Province (QP) segment to Bicolandia towards the Visayas and Mindanao is exasperating. Unfortunately, there isn’t any alternative route.
At that 100-kilometer stretch, where the AADT or average annual daily traffic is 145,480 vehicles, North and Southbound, most motorists thought they have reached the moon already because of the unavoidable depressions, pits, craters and or potholes, everywhere.
I personally experienced how damning and punishing it is traversing that point, leading me to ask why something so important as the maintenance of a national road is left un-acted upon by our elected and appointed government officials for so long? Why isn’t there any concern to make travel comfortable and faster?
Many travelers, of course, blame QP Governor Dr. Helen Tan and her son, the 4th District Rep. Atty. Keith Micah Tan, for doing nothing regarding the worst road condition of the whole leg from Pagbilao stretching up to the last Quezon town, Tagkawayan.
Did I buy that? No, because Gov. Tan is a doer, responsive and one who never sleeps on the job. Instead, the Bridge sought answers to the bugging questions by talking to reliable sources. However, they requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.
According to the source, for regular maintenance of the road, (the core mandate of DPWH), the 4th District Engineering Office (DEO) under DE Rodel O. Florido and most others gets P10 million budget monthly, I repeat, monthly, to ensure that the DEO has enough funds for road maintenance, which generally include drainage/canal clean up, asphalting, potholes fill up and sectional road repairs.
Well, without even using my calculator, P10 million is a penny to keep about 100 kilometers of road in real ideal road standard condition especially with the unreasonably high construction material costs. That’s on the assumption that the DEO gets the funds. But does the DPWH get the P10 million monthly maintenance money? The answer is a big NO.
Congress, who holds the power of the purse, appropriates just P10 million a year or roughly P833,000 a month. Not P10 million a month, not only to QP but even for Samar-Leyter provinces and other regions. That explains why the Pagbilao-Tagkawayan road is a curse for thousands upon thousands of land travelers from the southernmost part of Mindanao to Manila or vice versa.
No one else but Congress is at fault. They deny us the opportunity for a smooth, safer and speedier travel. The district representatives, we are informed by my source, would cut the maintenance budget and put the huge congressional funds for new road or infra construction projects.
Of course, who among our solons will admit that they take in no less than 15 percent of any infra project funds allocated to their respective districts? Mayor Benjie Magalong explained to me that whenever he tackles the issue of infra-kotong, the solons and other officials in the audience look at their mobile phones with intent not to hear him.
Well, Filipinos, indeed, need to elect honest and competent officials. Let’s pray, bless us!
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