P900M for 100-meter road? Lacson hits DPWH for alleged overpricing

Camille Elemia
P900M for 100-meter road? Lacson hits DPWH for alleged overpricing
Senator Panfilo Lacson questions why a 100-meter stretch of Maharlika Road in Nueva Ecija has been getting P300 million yearly since 2016

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson grilled the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) over the supposed overpricing of a short portion of a national road in Nueva Ecija.

Lacson cited KM 0193+500 to KM 0193+600, a 100-meter stretch of Maharlika Road in Barangay Putlan in Carranglan, Nueva Ecija. It received an allocation of P300 million yearly in 2016 and 2017 and is being allotted the same amount in 2018.

“May I know the status [of the road]? Sa pinaka-matangkad kong staff, isang hakbang lang ang one meter eh (My tallest staff member can cover one meter in just one step),” Lacson said during the deliberations on the proposed 2018 budget of the DPWH on Monday, October 9.

The senator said he had the road inspected over the weekend and presented a photo of the site. He said the 100-meter road has a slope of 20 to 40 meters upward and has a 150- to 200-meter slope downward.

“If we compute, assuming that we compute that area, on per square meter basis, and using the high end, 40 meters upward and 200 meters pababa (downward). So 40 meters upward slope x 100 meters is equal to 4,000 square meters. The downward slope, so [let’s use] 200 meters x 100 meters, so that’s 20,000 square meters. That’s 24,000 square meters,” Lacson said.

“I divided P900 million with 24,000 square meters. That’s P37,500 per square meter,” he added, then pointed out that this was higher than usual estimates for roads.

The session was suspended, as Senator Loren Legarda discussed the issue with DPWH officials led by Secretary Mark Villar.

After clarifying the issue with the DPWH, Legarda answered Lacson’s questions. She said the project involves 40,000 square meters under multi-year funding, amounting to a total of P900 million as of 2018.

Legarda, however, said that the P900-million budget is not just for road construction but also for “slope protection.”

She also corrected Lacson and said the cost per square meter is only P18,900 and not P37,500 as the latter earlier said.

Legarda added that the cost is higher than usual because it is not a straight road.

“It is not just the narrow road, it’s in a zigzagging area,” she said.

Lacson was evidently not satisfied with the DPWH’s response and said, “I think we deserve a better explanation than that.”

He then went on to another issue involving the multimillion-peso feasibility studies of the DPWH, questioning whether the results of these studies have been effective.

He also criticized the 3-kilometer Baguio to Bauang Phase 1 project, which remains unfinished. Lacson presented photos showing that the middle of the road was not yet paved.

 – Rappler.com

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Camille Elemia

Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation issues, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email camille.elemia@rappler.com