(YEARENDER) Public works dept doing the spadework for a solid infrastructure program

To realize President Rodrigo Duterte's vision of a corruption-free Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) that creates liveable and safe communities, Secretary Mark Villar has promised to get tough on graft in the department while delivering quality infrastructure on time.

Setting to work following his appointment, Secretary Villar pledged to give priority to the mega problems of traffic and flood control. Noting that the traffic crisis is something "we intend to solve in the next two to three years", Villar last August announced the 24/7 construction of crucial projects in urban areas nationwide.

"Infrastructure delayed is infrastructure denied. Mechanisms will soon be in place to ensure that projects are built on time," he said then, adding that the department will also be using concrete that dries up in 24 hours for projects on major thoroughfares, such as EDSA.

The public works chief in October last year also created a task force that will handle right-of-way acquisitions to minimize project delays. Under Department Order No. 203, series of 2016, Villar formed the Unified Project Management Office Right-of-Way (UPMO-ROW) Task Force that will handle right-of-way issues that hinder the implementation of road, bridge and flood control projects nationwide.

"We're also hoping to have a court dedicated specifically to handling right-of-way issues. Upon assessment, most slippages are caused by the need to acquire private lands, relocate informal settler families," he said.

Villar has also sought the centralization of the processing of permits and licenses of infrastructure projects. "Instead of contractors going to department agencies, local government units, DPWH would like to centralize the processing inside the department," he pointed out.

To put an end to ghost projects, Villar on Nov. 30 instituted a new national monitoring system with a built-in geo-tagging feature that enables the adding of geographic identification data to photos, videos and other posts. This allows other content from the same geographic location to be found. "By 2017, we expect to detect any ghost project real-time, as they are posted in the system," he added.

He also launched in August the 24/7 Secretary's Hotline 165-02 to get feedback from the public on how the DPWH could improve its policies, programs, activities and projects.

"DPWH projects are projects of the Filipino people. We're asking for the help of every Filipino in ensuring that the projects are implemented well and at the right quality," he said.

While putting anti-corruption measures in place, Villar pushed on with his priority projects.

Last Dec. 21, he and Transportation Secretary Art Tugade opened the NAIA Expressway Christmas Lane which connects Pagcor Entertainment City and Diosdado Macapagal Blvd. to NAIA Terminal 3 and Skyway. It complements the first phase of the project, which linked Macapagal Blvd. and Entertainment City in Pasay City to NAIA Terminals 1 and 2 in ParaAaque City. The expressway is projected to reduce average travel time between Skyway/SLEX and NAIA Terminal 1 from approximately 24.3 minutes to 8.2 minutes and benefit 80,000 travelers per day.

The PHP20.45 billion NAIA Expressway project is a four-lane, 12.65-km. elevated expressway and 2.22-km. road traversing Sales Ave., Andrews Ave., ParaAaque River, MIAA Road and Macapagal Blvd. Once all phases are completed, the project is expected to provide easy access to and from NAIA Terminals 1, 2, 3 and 4 and will interface with the South Luzon Expressway through the Sales Interchange, Manila Cavite Toll Expressway and Macapagal Blvd.

By the first quarter of 2017, Villar said, the public will have full access, not only to the NAIA Expressway but to Runway Manila as well.

Runway Manila is a 220-meter pedestrian bridge over Andrews Ave. that will directly connect NAIA Terminal 3 to Newport City. Once completed, it will allow one to walk the distance between the airport and Newport City in less than 10 minutes, he said, adding that the bridge can accommodate up to 2,000 persons at a time. The project, which is being developed in cooperation with Travellers International Hotel Group, will be an enclosed, air-conditioned bridge, with PWD-friendly facilities, such as moving walkways and elevators.

In October, the DPWH also resumed the rehabilitation of an 840-lineal meter section of UN Ave. from Taft to Estero de Paco Bridge in Ermita, Manila on a round-the-clock basis.

Last Nov. 23, the department announced that it was resuming the upgrading and widening of the remaining section of the Radial Road 10 (R-10), particularly at the Pacheco, Tondo area. The road, which traverses the old Smokey Mountain area, has been cleared of illegal structures, Villar noted.

The 9.7-km. R-10, which stretches from Delpan Bridge, Tondo, Manila to the mouth of the Malabon River at Bangkulasi Bridge, C-4 Road in Navotas City, is an alternative route to EDSA and C5 for motorists traveling from Quezon City to Manila and Pasay.

The Bangkulasi Bridge at the end of C-4 in Navotas City has also been opened following the relocation of informal settler families occupying the foot of the bridge, Villar said.

Meanwhile, Villar on Sept. 3 said the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) has become operational up to Binalonan, Pangasinan following the soft opening of the Urdaneta City-Binalonan segment. p>The opening of the 4.92-km. Urdaneta-Binalonan portion has reduced travel time from Tarlac City to Urdaneta from two hours and 30 minutes to about 40 minutes.

Villar said the entire 88.85 km. stretch of TPLEX is expected to be fully operational by 2018. The TPLEX is a PHP24.4 billion expressway project that would benefit more than 100,000 vehicles per day and would cut travel time to Gerona, Paniqui, Rosales, Urdanata, and Rosario.

In Zamboanga Sibugay province, the department completed in October the PHP162.7 million project to fix the 6.6-km. Ipil Diversion Road Phase 1, which runs through Barangays Pangi, Guituan, Taway, Suclema and Tiayon, and ease traffic on the main roads from Pagadian to Zamboanga City.

Flood control projects

In September last year, the department completed the Mandaluyong Main Drainage Project (Maysilo). "The completion of the PHP609.12 million project is expected to decrease inundation depth from chest-deep to just about six inches of flooding, if any. It is also expected to decrease the duration of flooding to only about 30 minutes," Villar said.

It is likewise expected to protect a 182-hectare area covering 10 barangays and four major roads, namely Boni Ave. (East and West), San Francisco St. and Martinez Road.

The final segment of the project involved the construction of a 652-linear meter double barrel box culvert along San Francisco St., and the installation of four pumps, each of which has a discharge capacity of 1.5 cu. meters per second.

In Nueva Vizcaya province, the DPWH completed in October the construction of a revetment to support the Mangayang Bridge in Barangay Banganan, Aritao. The 636-lineal meter structure was built at a cost of PHP44 million to further strengthen the bridge that links Aritao to Quirino Road and prevent flooding in small communities near the river, especially during heavy rains.

In Leyte province, the DPWH completed the rehabilitation of a flood control structure that would boost the agricultural productivity of farmers, especially during the rainy season. The PHP134 million rehabilitation and improvement of the Dungcaan River basin flood control structure would protect farms, particularly those in Baybay City, against flood. Flood-mitigating measures included dredging and reconstructing concrete walls.

In addition, the DPWH completed in September the PHP112 million rehabilitation of flood control structures along the Daguitan-Marabong River in Barangay Caridad in the town of Julita, and the PHP9 million Tabgas flood control structure along Tabgas River in the town of Albuera in Leyte.

In the same the month, an urban drainage system project costing PHP96.5 million in Butuan City that is part of the Agusan River basin flood control project was also completed by the DPWH. The project involved the excavation of a 2.77-km. channel, the provision of slope protection for a 2.05-km. road, and the construction of reinforced concrete box culverts barrels.

The Agusan River is the third largest river basin in the country with a drainage area of 10.9 sq. km. that flows through several provinces in Mindanao before draining into Butuan Bay, where it overflows during the rainy season, affecting the area's economic development.

Early last year, the DPWH completed the east bank levee, flood wall and west bank levee of the Lower Agusan Development Project - Flood Control Component Stage 1, Phases 1 and 2, and the Adgaoan River Bank Protection in Barangay Panaganan and Poblacion La Paz, Agusan del Sur for PHP96.5 million and PHP50.3 million, respectively.

In support of tourism

Meanwhile, to boost tourism, the DPWH restored the Casa Real, a 260-year old abandoned mansion that had served as the provincial seat of the government of Lingayen, Pangasinan during the Spanish times.

The department, in cooperation with the Department of Tourism, spent PHP35 million for the first and second phase of the restoration work and will spend another PHP50 million for the third and final phase.

Apart from work on the mansion's walls, ceiling and roof, the DPWH installed high-definition (HD) screen and audio systems with closed-circuit television and plumbing works, including a fire sprinkler system.

On Nov. 15, the DPWH concreted and widened 4.1 km. of the Balili-Suyo-Sagada Road that leads to the famous Sagada burial caves, museums, ancient villages, rice terraces, waterfalls and other tourist destinations in the Mountain Province. It allocated PHP95.5 million to improve the road to Sagada, which will also help farmers in delivering their crops to markets, as well as students who go to school and residents who need immediate medical attention.

A beach destination in Bacacay, Albay has also become more accessible to visitors with newly improved roads. With a PHP363 million budget, the 8-km. Cagraray Circumferential Road and the 12-km. Sto. Domingo-Misibis Road, both leading to Cagraray Island where the known Misibis Bay is located, have been rehabilitated, paved and widened to become safer for tourists visiting the province's pristine beach and caves.

The roads also lead to Legazpi City Airport and different seaports in the Bicol region, providing easy means of transportation for tourists and local residents.

The department has likewise built the 40-lineal meter Bayuyan Bridge, linking several agri-tourism sites in President Roxas, Capiz, and providing better access to people who wish to visit the province's tourist destinations, among them the Hinulugan Falls in Pilar and Lintiknon Falls in President Roxas.

Constructed at a cost of PHP22 million, the four-meter wide pre-stressed concrete girder type bridge, funded under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program-Agrarian Reform Infrastructure Support Project, Phase III (CARP-ARISP III) of the Department of Agrarian Reform, has also benefited corn and sugarcane farmers.

Moreover, Cebu's secret paradise -- and its sugar-white beaches and pristine waters -- in the town of Pilar in Camotes Islands has been opened to tourists with the paving of 5.4 km. of the Pilar Circumferential Road. The DPWH allocated PHP68.5 million to improve the road and allow easier access to Pilar's tourism sites.

The department also completed the PHP425 million improvement of 11 km. of the Dinagat-Loreto Road connecting the municipalities of Cagdianao, San Jose, Basilisa, Libjo, Tubajon and Loreto in Dinagat Islands in October last year. With better road access leading to tourist sites, Dinagat Islands in the south side of Leyte Gulf in the Caraga region is ready to accommodate more local and international visitors.

Dinagat Islands is home to a bat sanctuary in the town of Tubajon; a structure called White Castle in San Jose; Kisses Islets in Libjo; and beaches with rock formations in the town of Basilisa, among others.

In mid-November, the tourism industry of Tangub City, Misamis Occidental received a boost with the newly paved road leading to its scenic Hoyohoy Highland Botanical Garden. The PHP53.4 million concreting of the Sta. Maria Hoyohoy Road also addressed the traffic congestion caused by the influx of tourists during the Christmas season.

Tangub City, tagged as the Christmas symbols capital of the Philippines and the little Baguio of Misamis Occidental province, is frequently visited by tourists during the Yuletide season for its recreation of famous landmarks in the world using colorful lights and decorations.

The upgrading of a circumferential road in Surigao del Norte in November meanwhile will further popularize the province's aquatic animals and marine resources, according to the DPWH. With a budget of PHP144 million, the department improved 5.8 km. of road linking three barangays in Surigao del Norte's Mainit town, giving tourists smoother access to Lake Mainit, the country's fourth largest lake.

Lake Mainit is home to the Mindanao forest kingfisher, white-breasted sea eagle, gurami and casili, as well as the fire orchid, Indian lotus and the Philippine rosewood 'toog'.

Aside from road improvement for Lake Mainit, the DPWH recently paved the NRJ-Cagniog-Cayutan-Canlipa Port Area Road in Surigao City; the access road leading to DoAa Helene Port in Socorro, Bucas Grande Island; the Sayak-Airport-Antipolo-Tuburan-Quezon-Mabini Road; and the Socorro Port-Junction Songkoy-Sudlon-Sohoton Cove, in Siargao.

In 2016, the DPWH accomplished a total of PHP661.3 million projects for Surigao del Norte, covering tourism roads, road repairs, new bridges, flood-control projects, drainage, and slope protection structures.

From schools to rainwater systems

In the meantime, the DPWH in October completed a two-storey building project that would address the rise in the number of high school enrollees in an island barangay in Tarangnan, Samar. The PHP8 million school building with six classrooms was for the 530 students of the Oeste National High School, the only secondary school in Barangay Oeste in Tarangnan.

The department has also paved 3.6 km. of the Junction Morning-Cataingan-Esperanza Port in the town of Pio V. Corpuz in Masbate for PHP91.5 million, giving local residents easy access to the provinces of Samar, Leyte and Cebu through Esperanza's roll-on/roll-off (RORO) port.

The department's other major projects in the Bicol region include the improvement of the Mayon-Mariawa-Puro Road in Albay leading to the proposed Bicol International Airport, with a budget of PHP116.2 million; and the Bacon-Manito Road, Sorsogon costing PHP168.2 million.

The DPWH said on Nov. 16 that one of the most critical bridges for the development of Agusan del Sur has been improved and widened by the agency. The 240-lineal meter Wawa Bridge is the longest steel bridge in the province that connects Bayugan City to Sibagat town. The bridge-widening project cost PHP219.8 million.

On the other hand, the DPWH actively supported clearing and restoration efforts during calamities. For instance, it mobilized a team to clear rockslides at the Basco-Mahatao-Ivana-Uyugan-Imnajbu Road in Ivana, Batanes on Oct. 8, as well as to 17 road sections in the Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon regions following the onslaught of Typhoon Karen.

It also installed 19 rainwater collection systems for schools in Quirino province as an innovative way to maximize the use of rainwater for sanitation purposes.

Build, build, build

Since President Duterte has made it clear that his administration will keep a deliberate focus on developing the regions through connective infrastructure, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has approved a number of big-ticket projects, NEDA director general, Ernesto Pernia, has said.

"We are ramping up public infrastructure spending next year, allotting at least 5.0 percent of GDP to go to infrastructure projects, until 2022," Pernia said.

Since June, the NEDA Board, chaired by the President, has met twice and has approved 17 projects. Among them is the improvement or widening of the Gen. Luis Road. The project, which covers 8.98 km. from Quirino Highway in Quezon City to Gen. MacArthur Highway in Valenzuela City, will ease the traffic in the cities of Quezon, Caloocan, and Valenzuela. The project intends to expand the carriageways of the road network, and rehabilitate three short bridges along the road network in Malinta, Paseo de Blas and Maysan in Valenzuela City.

According to NEDA, the estimated project cost is PHP2.956 billion for a 24/7 work schedule or PHP2.814 billion for a regular work schedule. With a 24/7 work schedule, the project is expected to be implemented from January 2018 to January 2019.

The DPWH will also upgrade the 23.3-km. Plaridel Bypass Road by expanding its carriageway from two lanes to four lanes. The PHP10.496 billion roadwork will start from the NLEX Burol Interchange Toll Plaza and extend to the Pan-Philippine Highway in San Rafael, Bulacan.

Meanwhile, the board has also approved the PHP23.5 billion first phase of the Metro Manila Flood Management Project; PHP74.6 billion NAIA public-private partnership (PPP) project; and the PHP37.8 billion Metro Manila Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) in EDSA.

Furthermore, the DPWH plans to build new linkages to ensure better connectivity between key destinations. These include the Santa Monica-Lawton-BGC Viaduct that will directly link BGC going to Ortigas; the UP-Miriam-Ateneo Viaduct that will cut down travel by 80 percent in Katipunan Ave. at CP Garcia; and the NLEX-SLEX Connector Road that will reduce travel time to 30 minutes going to Alabang from Balintawak.

"Our President wants to create communities that are both liveable and safe. In DPWH, we promise quality infrastructure delivered on time, and accessible to the public," Villar said.

Source: Philippines News Agency

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