In his interpellation of the DPWH’s proposed budget for 2021, Sen. Lacson questioned several issues including whopping appropriations for several districts, double appropriations, overlapping projects, modifications involving poor planning, and right-of-way costs embedded in several infrastructure projects on top of the P11.45-billion appropriations for ROWs. He also reiterated his call to set aside at least for 2021 non-priority projects such as multi-purpose buildings (MPBs), in favor of helping LGUs hit by recent typhoons.
Sen. Lacson’s Initial Manifestation:
“At the outset, let me be clear about one thing. When I and my staff scrutinize the budget of the DPWH and raise issues on the appropriations and utilization of funds by the agency, we do so without the slightest intent of casting doubt on the integrity of Sec. Villar and any of his undersecretaries. In fact if we found any proof of evidence that the secretary or any officials had gotten involved directly or indirectly with any corrupt activities in the department, I would not hesitate to say so even in their faces. In actual fact Mr. President, as I speak, we haven’t heard even from the rumor mill that Sec. Villar has dipped his fingers into any of the shenanigans that some sectors say are almost of public knowledge in the agency. Having said that Mr. President, I would like to state for the record that I agree with President Duterte, albeit not completely, that Sec. Villar is not corrupt. Not because he is rich but because he is not corrupt, period.”
Sen. Lacson bared huge allocations for some districts, from a high of P15.351B to a low of P620M. Several districts got more than P1B, while the remaining districts got at least P620M. The allocations per district amount to a total of P474,804,707,000. “Remember when we questioned the P396B in lump sum appropriations, they came out with an addendum. But the addendum exceeded the P396B, umabot siya ng P474B.”
Sen. Lacson also noted a list of 739 line items for MPBs with a uniform allocation of P1M each. “Ang total po lahat nito P474,804,707,000. Yan ang allocations per district.”
“Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, all I can say is pity yourselves. Those of us who may have individual insertions would look like barangay kagawads compared to our HOR counterparts,” he said, but added he chose not to place the names of the districts nor the names of the district representatives “because I want to focus on the issue at hand Instead of the personalities involved.”
Also, Sen. Lacson noted his source here came from the House itself. “Our source here is the HOR itself. And according to our sources, they had a hand in the preparation of this list. So I am not blaming the department when it appears this way, Mr. President, because practically mga congressmen ang may gawa ng listahan na ito.”
Sen. Lacson questioned double appropriations and overlapping of projects. The projects with double appropriations included:
1. Davao City Coastal Bypass Road, Bago Aplaya Times Beach Roxas Ave, Davao City: Under page 200 of the 2021 GAB, there’s an appropriation of P1.791B for it, but there is also another appropriation on page 1041 of the GAB, amounting to P4.049B. “We’d like to get an explanation because this appears to be a double appropriation, only 1 item. There’s no sectioning. The description of the items is the same. It appears that it’s only one project. If we add P1.709B and P4.449B, the total amount of duplicated projects would be P6.169B.” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Juan Edgardo Angara said the DPWH explained the P4.449B was tagged FLR so they had to re-appropriate it for 2021, and the P1.7B is a new appropriation, and is not contained in the 2020 GAA.
2. Baguio City, Major Mane to Kennon Road Bypass Road: two items involving P50M and P3M.
3. Iguig Bypass Road, Cagayan: One in the amount of P1.91M, another in the amount of P50M.
4. Balagtas Flyover, Batangas City: P81.33M and P85M.
5. Construction of MPB including site development, Brgy Carmay East, Rosales, Pangasinan: appropriations of P127.5M and P50M for a total of P177.5M.
6. Construction of convention center, Ozamiz City Misamis Occidental: P62M and P112.377M for a total of P174.377M.
Sen. Lacson sought an outright explanation for overlapping projects, including:
1. A stretch of the Surigao del Sur Boundary-Davao Oriental Coastal Road K1635+165 to K1635+210 (45 meters costing P12.1M), overlapping with the stretch from K1635+167 to K1635+247. “The interesting thing here, ang P12.1M, 45 meters yan if we deduct 165 from 210 sa km post reading. Mas mahal ang 45 meters sa 80 meters kasi 80 meters is P1M while the 45-meter stretch of road, P12.1M. Paano kaya yan Mr. President? Mas mahaba ang P1M kesa sa P12M.”
2. Paco-Roxas-Arakan Valley Jct Davao-Bukidnon Road K1640+100 to K1640+833 (P50M) and the Paco-Roxas-Arakan Valley Jct Davao-Bukidnon Road K1640+453 to K1640+617 (P30M).
Modifications Involving Poor Planning:
Sen. Lacson bared issues of poor planning that resulted in a significant decrease in physical targets of up to 70-80%, including:
1. Asphalt overlay along Olongapo-Bugallon Road, worth P75.1M. The physical target was brought down from 39.116 lane km to 7.98 lane km – a difference of 31.136 lane km. Yet, the unit cost went up from P1.9M in the 2020 GAA to P7.567M as modified. “A unit cost increase of 298% sa modification and physical target reduction of 79%? Mukhang napakalaki yata niyan.” He added that if the planning were properly done, there would be little to no delay. Sen. Angara said DPWH Sec. Mark Villar noted this seems more an unusual case.”
2. Construction of road slope protection in the Pili-Tigaon-Albay Boundary Road, P125M. “The physical target decreased by 76.76%, while unit cost increased by 330%. This is under the 2020 GAA.” Sen. Lacson said the slope protection’s unit cost per square meter in the 2020 GAA was P5,530.47, but was modified to a whopping P23,801.30. “My question is, what is the standard cost per square meter sa slope protection? … Between P5,500 and P23K, don’t you think that’s too much of a range?”
Embedded ROW Costs:
Sen. Lacson noted that while the DPWH has removed the inclusion of ROW in road construction and rehab after he brought up the issue in 2017 and 2018, the 2020 GAA has an allocation for ROW under support operations, amounting to P11.455B. “Pero napansin namin may naka-embed sa ibang projects na ROW… In spite of P11.455B na naka-separate for ROW, may embedded sa road construction na ROW.”
In 2021, the DPWH is asking for P22B for Payments of ROW, but the Senate committee deducted some P4B. “I will agree with you masyadong malaki ang P22B kasi may naka-embed pa within projects. And we’d like to get details of those projects with embedded ROW costs,” he said.
Examples of projects with “ROW Acquisition” under the “Type of Work/Physical Target” include:
* Buenavista-Bolong Bypass Road Package 2 in Zamboanga City where the project had a total ROW acquisition cost of P10,001,014
* Legazpi City Coastal Road in Albay with a ROW acquisition cost of PP5,943,000; and the Naga Junction Magarao-Canamann-Libmanann Jct. PPH Road (Skybridge) in Camarines, with a ROW acquisition cost of P5M
Help for Typhoon-Hit Areas:
Sen. Lacson noted DILG Sec. Eduardo Año shared with President Duterte the Senate’s plenary discussion where the senators are willing to help the LGUs devastated by the 3 typhoons to get back on their feet by setting aside some funds for their rehab and reconstruction, including construction of evacuation centers. Sen. Lacson had proposed adding a third item under ALGU-LGSF. “So I just hope at the proper time when we submit our proposed amendments, our colleagues will consider.”