P63 billion earmarked for ROW payments
MANILA, Philippines — The government has allocated as much as P63 billion in right of way (ROW) payments for infrastructure projects but earmarked them in lump sums.
Deputy Speaker Johnny Pimentel, an administration ally, on Sunday called the attention of congressmen to the ROW payments proposed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Transportation (DOTr).
The ROW payments appeared as lump sums in the proposed P4.1-trillion budget, which was currently under consideration of the 300-strong House of Representatives.
Based on the 2020 General Appropriations Bill, the DPWH is poised to receive P44 billion for ROW payments while the DOTr asked for P19 billion, the Surigao del Sur lawmaker said.
“We are renewing our call for both departments to post on their respective websites the list of payees, the amounts paid and the properties acquired to pave the way for infrastructure projects,” he said.
“This is crucially important, considering that the allocations for ROW spending appear as lump sums in the budget,” said Pimentel, who chaired the House good government and public accountability committee in the 17th Congress.
Last year, the budget department sought a ROW budget for 2019 of P56.3 billion, with P29 billion going to the DPWH and P27 billion to the DOTr.
But accusations of massive wastage and corruption in
the use of the fund compelled the Senate to realign P12 billion from the DPWH’s ROW allocation and P5 billion from the DOTr’s, sparking objections from affected House lawmakers.
That was one of the bones of contention in the monthslong delay in the passage of the 2019 budget, which was signed only in April with a partial presidential veto of P95.3 billion worth of projects inserted by legislators.
For 2020, according to Pimentel, the DPWH intends to make ROW payments for the construction of new roads, flyovers and bridges, among others.
The DOTr, on the other hand, will purchase ROW for aviation, railway and maritime infrastructure projects such as Kalibo International Airport, Roxas Airport in Capiz province, Dumaguete airport in Negros Oriental province, Metro Manila Subway Phase I, North South Commuter Railway, Cebu International Container Port and the Mindanao Railway.
ROW expenses are authorized under Republic Act No. 10752.
Under the law, the national government may acquire real property as a ROW site for any infrastructure project via donation, negotiated sale, expropriation or any other mode of acquisition.
Both the DOTr and DPWH are required to settle all ROW obligations before the start of projects.
In January, Sen. Panfilo Lacson exposed massive wastage and possible corruption in infrastructure projects hounded by ROW problems.
He said some P74.6 billion worth of road projects with ROW problems had zero or close to zero physical accomplishments as of October 2018, based on DPWH records.
In 2018, Sen. Richard Gordon, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, said DPWH officials might have been complicit in an P8.7-billion scam involving fraudulent claims for ROW payments backed by bogus land titles in General Santos City and nearby provinces.
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