SEN. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson yesterday bared what he called were “skeleton” or unfinished projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) which had already received millions of pesos in funding in past years and yet are still in need of additional appropriations in the proposed P4.506-trillion national budget for 2021.
At the start of the Senate’s floor deliberations on the national budget, Lacson identified the multipurpose building in Barangay Sapilang, Bacnotan, La Union as among the projects. He said a total of P15.6 million had been allotted for the construction of the building – P5.6 million under the General Appropriations Act of 2017, P5 million in the 2019 budget, and another P5 million in the 2020 budget.
In DPWH’s proposed budget for 2021, Lacson noted that the Sapilang multipurpose hall still needs funding for its “completion” in the amount of P5 million.
Another project is the multipurpose building in Barangay Mabalbalino, San Carlos City in Pangasinan, which had already been allocated P2 million under the 2019 GAA, but is still allegedly in need of an additional P3 million funding next year. A photograph taken by Lacson’s staff last October 22 showed that only eight posts have so far been put up with the initial funding.
A third multipurpose building is located in Barangay Balaya, also in San Carlos City, Pangasinan which got a P2 million funding in the 2019 budget but still needs an additional P3 million in the 2021 budget. A photograph taken also showed that the project only had 12 posts erected.
Lacson said a fourth multipurpose building is in the compound of the Linimot Elementary School in Barangay Linimot in Jones, Isabela, which got P8.4 million in 2017 and another P12.6 million in 2018. In the DPWH’s proposed 2021 budget, the project is allocated P2 million for “completion.” Again, only a number of posts were put up with the previous P21.2 million total budget.
The fifth multipurpose building is in Barangay Cacapian in San Juan, La Union which was given an initial P3 million funding but will still need another P5 million next year for its completion.
Again, another multipurpose building in barangay Poblacion in Bacnotan, La Union also still needs P5 million to be completed despite the P10 million it got in 2019 and P5 million this year. This project, Lacson said, is allegedly funded by the local government unit of Bacnotan.
“So, what happened to the P10 million? The MPB (multipurpose building) does not even look like it costs P15 million,” Lacson said.
Lacson also bared that DPWH officials are asking for a P3 million allocation in the 2021 national budget for the “completion” of an evacuation center in barangay Central East 2, Bangar in La Union. However, he said, a photo of the structure taken last October 23 showed that it is already dilapidated.
“Are we going to allow that this will be funded in the 2021 budget? Nakita naman natin na skeleton, ‘yung after spending or appropriating a few million pesos, ganoon ang itsura. Eh para na tayong nagpapaloko (We have seen that they are skeletons, that after spending or appropriating a few million pesos, those structures are still just like that. [If we fund these] it would seem that we are allowing them to make a fool out of us),” he said.
Lacson said the skeleton multipurpose buildings are among those that he earlier identified to be part of the P68-billion questionable items in the proposed budget of the DPWH.
These are also part of the 5,913 “rehashed” projects in the 2021 budget worth P135 billion.
Lacson said he would seek the realignment of the funding allotted for questionable multipurpose building projects nationwide to programs related to the government’s COVID-19 response, including the improvement of internet services in the country.
“If we can realign the P68 billion, why not allot P18 billion for the national broadband program of the DICT (Department of Information and Communications Technology)? If we invest P18 billion to improve internet services, the government can save P34.25 billion in the next five years,” Lacson said.
Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate finance committee, said he is open to amendments to be introduced in the proposed budget.
He said they will give DPWH the chance to explain Lacson’s exposes when the department’s budget is taken up for deliberations next week.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said he does not want to make any conclusions based on Lacson’s revelations as he would still like to hear the explanation of the DPWH.
‘ROADS TO NOWHERE’
Lacson said the skeleton projects do not end in multipurpose buildings as there are also roads which are the same like the Eastern Interior bypass road in Cagayan de Oro City which received P330 million from 2015 to 2017 but is still unfinished.
He said the same bypass road project got an additional funding of P200 million for the construction of a tunnel heading to the Sayre Highway also in Cagayan de Oro City but the tunnel was not constructed since engineers said it was not feasible to construct one in that area.
He said this is a classic case of poor planning.
Also, an interior road in barangay Gusa Puerto in Cagayan de Oro was appropriated P496.5 million in the 2020 GAA but remains unfinished. He said DPWH officials are asking for an additional P414.4 million in the 2021 budget to complete the project.
Lacson said the DPWH road projects in Cagayan de Oro City also included monetary payments for the road right of way but photos showed houses are still standing in the path where the roads will be constructed.
He said the Guicadale road network to the Bicol Internal Airport (Manawan-Kinuartilan section) in Camalig, Albay was given P10 million in the 2020 GAA but DPWH officials are still asking for an additional P1 million for its “completion.”
Lacson said based on an engineer’s computation, the P1 million being asked could only construct 40 meters long of road, since it will take around P25 million to construct a one kilometer road.
Also, he said, the access road leading to Lidong Seaport in Sto. Domingo, Albay was already appropriated P20 million in the 2020 GAA but still needs an additional funding of P2 million in the 2021 budget. Photos of the access road showed that its cement overlay is all cracked up.
Lacson also bared the unequal distribution of funds in a number of congressional districts, which he said should be stopped.
He said one urban district in Davao is being appropriated with P15.351 billion, while a congressional district in Albay will get P7.5 billion, a district in Benguet was allocated P7.9 billion, and a district in Abra will have P3.75 billion.
Lacson, however, did not specifically identify the congressional districts.
“Yan ang honor roll … Tapos may nakita kaming districts P82M, may P42M pa. I just want to point out. Bakit ganoon ang disparity? Kasi kung one engineering district ‘yan babagsak, I cannot see how that particular engineering district would implement P15.351B of infra projects (That’s the honor roll… And then we also saw districts having P82 million [allocations], there are also others which have P42 million. I just want to point out the disparity. If that [amount] will fall under one engineering district, I cannot see how that particular engineering district would implement P15.351 billion of infra projects),” he added.