DBM allots P6.5B for road projects in 2016
MANILA, Philippines – Is the Philippines finally on its way to having better roads in the provinces?
On Thursday, August 6, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) launched the Konkreto at Ayos na Lansangan at Daan Tungo sa Pangkalahatang Kaunlaran (KALSADA), a proposed P6.5-billion ($142 million) program allocated for road development projects in the country.
The fund, which will be part of the 2016 National Expenditure Plan will be allotted for "the rehabilitation and upgrading of provincial roads, the transfer of these road assets permanently to provincial government balance sheets as assets and for maintenance, the development of each provinces’ Provincial Road Network Development Plan (PRNDP) and a mechanism of monitoring and evaluation of provincial roads,” the DBM said.
In its project briefer, the DBM explained that provincial roads are the largest and most important asset being managed by provincial local governments. These road networks link national roads to areas of economic development, allow access to basic services, and serve as important conduits during conflict, crises and calamities.
The project allows each province an average of 61.5 kilometers of road for rehabilitation, 24.6 kilometers for improvement works, and 12.3 kilometers for upgrading.
Starting from 10 pilot provinces in 2007 with the help of Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the program scales this up to 73 provinces.
A challenge to LGUs
The project, according to the DBM, will be performance-based. Provinces that “meet good governance standards, social development benchmarks, and established monitoring and evaluation mechanisms” will be able to tap the budget.
“Two criteria to determine how much each one will be getting – it’s the matter of performance and readiness,” DILG undersecretary Austere Panadero said.
These include checking on whether a province “[for] the past several years has been able to deliver on the road maintenance programs,” Panadero explained. The province's capacity to generate income will also be taken into consideration.
When it comes to readiness, it is important to consider a province’s ability to carry out its projects.
“It is an expectation of the national government na kailangan talagang pabilisin yung pagsagawa ng infrastructure projects. Hindi naman po siguro mapapabilis ito kung hindi handa ang ating mga burukrasya para ito ay gagawin,” said Panadero.
(It is an expectation of the national government [that local government units (LGUs)] can fast-track these infrastructure projects. Projects couldn’t be fast-tracked if the bureaucracy isn’t ready.)
He also said they are trying to avoid instances when huge amounts of funds are given to a province, without resulting outputs.
Together with the DILG and DFAT, provinces that are deemed ready for the project will have the chance to utilize the allotted budget.
Budget Secretary Butch Abad said the main purpose of the project is to empower LGUs when it comes to governance, saying that the national government has been providing basic services that LGUs should be providing in the first place.
“These are projects, but for us, these are [also] occasions to improve governance, occasions to build the capacity. Because if you can do that, you can begin to unload the government of the functions that belong to the LGUs and for the national government to focus on its national core mandates,” said Abad.
“I think you ease the burden on the national government and you facilitate the implementation of the projects. You’ve been hearing about the underspending problems of the national government,” he added. (READ: SONA 2015: Aquino government continues to underspend)
Submission of requirements
Starting third week of August to September 11, LGUs will be asked to submit requirements that will show they are able to meet the standards set by the DBM.
LGUs that do not meet the criteria will instead be asked to avail of the capacity-building component, which has a budget of P74.5 million ($1.6 million).
“Hindi komo walang kakayahan, ay pababayaan. (Just because there is no capability, they will be left to themselves.) There is a capacity-building component to this program,” Panadero said.
The DILG will then start working with the United Nations Development Programme for the next steps, such as listing down of amounts each province can utilize.
“So that if we go to the Congress, this is not going to be a lump sum. This is going to be listed down by province – magkano po ang kayang gawin (at sigurado po tayong) kayang gawin?” (So that if we go to the Congress, this is not going to be a lump sum. This is going to be listed down by province – how much can they [and we are sure they can] utilize?)
The project will help the country do away with patronage-politics according to Abad, saying that it “has been one of the reasons why poverty and underdevelopment pervades in [the] country.”
He also denied allegations that the project is just a gimmick for the upcoming 2016 elections.
“We would like to ask your help because I’ll be facing the House of Representatives and explaining to them the budget. I hope that you can help us explain to your legislators what this is all about and what the objective intended for the local government is. I think if we can do that, then we can minimize all of this name-calling, all of those baseless insinuations that are being actually leaned on to the program,” said Abad. – Rappler.com
*$1 = P45.74
Road construction project from Shutterstock