Gatchalian: Where did P3.7-B budget to transfer utility poles go?
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian has called out the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for leaving around 59,000 electric poles standing on widened roads and becoming dangerous obstructions despite the allocation of P3.7 billion to fund their transfer.
In his interpellation of the proposed 2021 budget of the DPWH on Wednesday, Gatchalian said electric poles that should have been removed were still standing on roads around the country despite the allocation of funds for their transfer as early as 2019.
“The government has already allocated funds or some amount to relocate the poles, but the poles are still scattered all over the country in the middle of the road. So my basic question is, where are the funds?” he said.
These poles have become the subject of complaints from motorists for being traffic hazards as they had been left standing in the middle of the road after they had been widened by the DPWH.
Gatchalian lamented that the DPWH moved only about 8,000 of 67,000 of these electric poles, leaving around 59,000 that still had to be transferred.
“It’s already 2020 and we still have 60,000 poles scattered all over the country in the middle of the road,” he said.
According to Sen. Sonny Angara, Senate finance committee chair, the poles’ relocation had suffered delays because of the “lengthy community quarantine” amid the coronavirus pandemic, and the string of natural calamities that hit the country.
Angara, who was in the proceedings to defend the proposed budget on behalf of the DPWH, said the P3.5-billion fund cited by Gatchalian covered the transfer costs from 2017 to 2021, and that there was still P2.5 billion left.
“The activity is still [going on], so they are just continuing the work that they started in those [previous] years,” he said.
Angara said an additional P1 billion was allocated in the proposed 2021 budget to cover the cost of removing the remaining poles.
The DPWH was mandated to include in its funding for upcoming road widening projects the cost for the transfer of electric poles, according to Gatchalian.
A joint circular issued by the DPWH and the Department of Energy in 2017 prescribes guidelines on the proper payment of compensation and recovery of costs in the transfer of power lines due to government projects.
“Within one year from the effectivity of this circular, the NEA (National Electrification Administration) and the [electric cooperative] shall cause the removal and relocation of any improperly located facility in the government’s right of way, subject to payment of compensation,” the circular said.
After a lapse of one year from the issuance of the circular, the power lines will be transferred at the expense of the electric cooperative and legal sanctions will be imposed, it said.
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