Delayed 2019 budget stalls Batangas road project
BATANGAS, Philippines – Deputy Speaker and Batangas 2nd District Representative Raneo Abu is calling on the Senate and the bicameral conference committee to immediately pass the 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA) when session resumes Monday, January 14.
The lawmaker said non-passage of the GAA will affect key government programs, including the final salary hike for government workers, social and basic services, and continuation of infrastructure projects identified as priority projects in the "Build, Build, Build" program. (READ: What to expect as gov't operates on a reenacted budget)
In Batangas alone, the delay in the approval of the new budget is greatly affecting the ongoing construction of the P1.104-billion Batangas City-Bauan Bypass Road that is envisioned to declog worsening traffic in the Batangas City-San Pascual-Bauan-Mabini portion of the Batangas City-Palico Highway.
This road accelerates the transport cost of both services and products of the industries along the Batangas Bay, which include international ports, oil refinery and depots, and power plants in Luzon.
"We have already reached more than halfway of this project and its completion now relies on the approval of the 2019 budget. That's why we are looking forward for the approval of 2019 GAA the soonest time possible," said Abu.
In 2017, a total of P199 million was appropriated for the construction project, including the P120 million apportioned for acquisition of road right of way (RROW). In the 2018 budget, around P633.19 million was allocated for it, including the cost of two bridges.
Meanwhile, Abu said various issues in the RROW acquisition has also stalled the construction. He then urged the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to immediately settle all issues involving the RROW acquisition.
Lawyer Marvey Gonzales, head of the Road Right of Way Task Force, said the DPWH is anticipating the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas' (BSP) approval of the appraisal of the properties by January 17.
The approval has been delayed by more than a year now, after the DPWH held 3 failed biddings for private appraisers, as there were no bidders. The DPWH was later able to enter into an agreement with another group of private appraisers, which now awaits the BSP’s approval.
"While the arms of law can always be used in expropriating properties where the by-pass road would pass through, we are still extending our hands to reach out the property owners that the right of way be acquired through negotiated sale," said Gonzales. – Rappler.com