Senators air frustration over 2 DPWH projects still unfinished after 20 years
MANILA, Philippines — Two senators aired their frustration on Wednesday over the slow progress of two infrastructure projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), one of which has not been completed after 20 years while the other has been on the “drawing board” for just as long.
During the Senate hearing on the proposed budget of the DPWH, Sen. Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III asked officials about the Cagayan de Oro Convention Center, which was conceptualized in 1998 by his late father, former Senate President Aquilino Pimentel Jr.
Pimentel said the construction of the convention center, which started in 2001, has not yet been completed until now.
“I hope we can find out what really is the problem because I think I wrote you in exasperation,” Pimentel said, speaking partly in Filipino. “I told you that the pyramids in Egypt were built in 18 years. And there were no backhoes, cranes, dump trucks. They were able to finish them in 18 years. I mean, in modern times, a convention center, we cannot finish in 20 years? Let’s be frank here: What really is the problem with it?”
In response, DPWH Secretary Mark Villar told senators that the latest update he got about the convention center was that its regional office was asking for additional funding to complete the parking space.
“That what I heard again: Work was done first on the outside,” Pimentel interjected, noting that the funding for the convention center was a regular project of the DPWH that received regular funding. “I hope you get to the bottom of this.”
According to Villar, the project received a P214-million allocation for 2020.
“Unfortunately, because of this COVID, I have not been able to go to [Cagayan de Oro] recently, but I will get an update on this,” Villar said.
“I’m very troubled by your concern that there’s nothing happening there. So I will personally find out what was accomplished in the P214 million that was allocated in 2020 for this building,” he added.
Further, Villar said he would meet with his regional director about the project “so we can finally straighten this out.”
Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, meanwhile, expressed frustration over the still-pending 32-kilometer Panay-Guimaras-Negros Bridge.
“May we exactly know what is the status of this project? Up to now, it is still on the drawing board. It is so frustrating,” Drilon said.
“I am sharing with you the frustration of the people of Region 6 [Western Visayas]. This project has been pending, I think, for the last 20 years, and up to now, it has not even seen the first nail or the first sack of cement being poured. So really frustrating,” he added.
According to DPWH Undersecretary Emil Sadain, the Export-Import Bank of Korea (Korea Eximbank) is currently reviewing the project’s feasibility study earlier conducted by a China Eximbank, which had already pulled out from funding it.
The review of the feasibility study is expected to be completed by the end of November this year. After that, the Investment Coordination Committee of the National Economic and Development Authority Board will “revisit” the study for approval, said Sadain.
“Hopefully, by next year we can start the possible loan negotiations for this particular project,” he added.
The DPWH secretary promised Drilon he would attend to the matter.
“You have my assurance that everything that we can to speed this up we will do it is a worthwhile project,” Villar said. “We’re just doing everything we can to make sure that the money that will be used for this flagship project will be used efficiently and judiciously.”
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