SAMAR, Philippines – The Department of Public Works and Highways 2nd District Engineering Office (DEO) in Samar has pledged to rehabilitate the province’s damaged roads this year.
The DPWH reassurance came with the announcement on Wednesday, January 26, that Samar 2nd district Representative Sharee Ann Tan has secured P450-million funding to repair the provincial stretch of the national highway.
In an interview with Rappler on January 26, Tan’s political affairs officer Yen Pomida-Nacario said President Rodrigo Duterte approved the fund for road repairs after DPWH Secretary Roger Mercado visited the province in December 2021.
Tan met with newly-installed District Engineer Arnaldo Bonifacio on Thursday, January 27, to discuss the repair of the Daang Maharlika Highway, especially sections dubbed as “hellish roads”.
“I think the fact that Secretary Mercado visited us last December and experienced how challenging it is to pass through the roads, helped with the approval of the P450-million request,” Pomida-Nacario said.
Samar governor Reynolds Michael Tan and Tan have been trying to secure funds from the DPWH Central Office since 2019, according to Pomida-Nacario.
Around 40 participants, including Pomida-Nacario, attended on Monday, January 24 a virtual public consultation on a proposed research project on the state of the province’s national road.
Engineer Ronald Orale, the Vice President for Research and Extension at the Samar State University (SSU), said the initiative aims to investigate the roots of the problem, including shoddy construction.
Orale said most researchers have been held back by fears of uncovering things that could upset certain sectors.
He stressed the study is not politically motivated and that the team would release their findings only after the May 2022 elections.
“The conduct of the study is not driven politically, it is not a witch-hunt,” said Orale in the online meeting where Rappler was allowed entry. “It is intended to answer pressing questions about Samar roads which, for a very long time, are in a bad state.”
Orale said they study the claims of local writer and historian Charo Nabong-Cabardo as a potential research direction but also urged other residents to submit photos, videos, and observations.
Carbado cited alleged substandard materials used, non-compliance with standard protocols in project execution, perception of collusion between players in the project implementation, and possible double funding of projects.
Dindo Macabante, a representative of the DPWH Central Office, explained the issue of budget allocation, citing determining factors like road conditions, traffic, and population.
“The system will run depending on the costing available. If, for example, the budget for the whole year is P500 billion, whatever the system will prioritize will determine who will get the funding for a specific project. That’s basically how the DPWH works in terms of budgeting,” Macabante said.
Pomida-Nacario said Tan will work closely with the Samar State University.
“We appreciate the initiative of the academe to help the government in its infrastructure programs,” she said.
The 2nd DEO issued a statement on January 19 to address the growing outcry on social media over the district’s bad roads, including the Calbiga-Tacloban road, which was completed in 2004.
Claims include vehicles supposedly having to reduce speed to about 20 to 30 kilometers per hour in some areas and deep potholes from the city of Catbalogan to the town of Sta. Rita, heading to Tacloban City in Leyte.
The DPWH statement said continuous rains severely damaged roads along Daang Maharlika Highway. It has since been declared as Beyond Maintenance Routine (BRM).
Bad weather since the new year limited work to palliative measures like temporary patching, the DPWH added.
Plans for substantial works were also affected by slashed budget allocation in 2021.
“Our maintenance fund is not sufficient to cover the amount required to undertake repair works, especially since our annual budget allocation in Calendar Year (CY) 2021 was greatly reduced by P21 million compared to CY 2020 release,” said the DPWH statement.
The 2nd DEO assured Samar folk that funds for repairs, rehabilitation, and preventive maintenance are included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2022, released earlier this year. – Rappler.com
Lance Lim is a Visayas-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.