“To whom much is given, much shall be required,” the Bible says.
This admonition is especially appropriate now for the Department of Public Works and Highways, which bears most of the burden of implementing the Duterte administration’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program with a funding estimated to reach from P8 trillion to P9 trillion from 2017 to 2022.
On this program President Duterte anchors his agenda for change, as it is expected to spur robust growth across the archipelago, create jobs and business opportunities and uplift the lives of the people.
However, with his uncanny knack for tuning in to people’s sentiment, President Duterte recently vented his frustration over the slow pace of implementation of government projects.
The President issued a stern warning that he would hold the concerned secretary responsible if they slip up in the implementation of their respective projects. Duterte particularly called Villar’s attention.
Next came the report of the Commission on Audit (CoA), noting the DPWH failed to use 66.4 percent or P440 billion of its P662.69-billion outlay in 2017, with only P222.66 billion or 34.14 disbursed by yearend. However, at the start of 2017, DPWH had obligated 92.19 percent or P610.83 billion of its budget.
The CoA said DPWH’s failure to implement the projects “deprived the intended beneficiaries of the immediate access to safe and reliable road network systems, school buildings and health facilities and reduced vulnerability to flooding.”
Likewise, the state auditing agency lamented the inefficiency of the DPWH, particularly in 2015 to 2017, noting had the projects, which were mostly in the provinces, been implemented they would have perked up the economies in the countryside.
Villar claimed if projects started by previous year were included, the accomplishment rate of DPWH would be around 60 percent or up by 10 percent from the time he took the helm of the agency. He said they have identified and warned 43 contractors behind in the delivery of some 400 projects with risks of getting blacklisted.
But these figures run counter to the everyday experience of the common people, especially in the metropolis who often had to endure traffic or flood caused by long-delayed construction projects.
In fact, closer to our home office, long-time residents are seething with frustration over perfectly good concrete roads constructed during the time of Makati Mayor Maximo Estrella in the 1950s, but were crushed, removed and abandoned by the contractor. Similar situations were observed in the provinces, too.
Pursuant to President Duterte’s warning, Secretary Villar should crack the whip now, and crack it hard not only on contractors, but also on DPWH personnel, who by acts or omission, perpetuate the culture of inefficiency in his department.
It may require something as dramatic as the decisive and unwavering directives by President Duterte for the closure and rehabilitation of Boracay.
He would have to muster the political will to bring sensibility and purposeful direction in the affairs of the DPWH if he truly wants to leave a lasting mark. Otherwise, he might be asked to just leave.