I visited the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) last August 28, 2014 and I was pleasantly surprised.
Three different key offices of the Bureau of Maintenance (BOM) of DPWH implement the three largest chunks of funding allocated by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) projects, amounting to almost $ 297 Million.
The Road Condition Monitoring and Evaluation (RCME) division implements the Post-Ondoy and Pepeng Short-Term Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project; Major Flood Control and Drainage Project (MFCDP) implements the Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement; and the Flood Risk Management (FRM) division implements the Flood Risk Management Project for Cagayan River, Tagloan River, and Imus River.
Traveling from Rizal to Manila is (literally) tiring—and the feeling gets even worse when traffic and heavy rain welcomes you along the way. Adding to the fuss is to set separate appointments with the different key offices that in fact are in the same compound of DPWH located at the Port Area in Manila.
Kairos and I have been doing rounds on DPWH key offices that are identified as implementers of big ticket funds included in the Adaptation Finance accountability initiative (AFAI) dataset, and every meeting we’ve had has been successful. The implementers have been cooperative and candid; most of our meetings were brief, but promising.
Unlike the usual scenario that the key officials would explicate that their projects are non-adaptation initiatives, DPWH has a different story.
The Short-Term Infrastructure Rehabilitation Project is intended to restore roads that were damaged during the Typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009. From an outsider’s perspective, allocating a loan amounting to almost $51 Million (given in two years tranches) for an adaptation-tagged project that was projected due to an event that happened 5 years ago, seems to be problematic—why is there a 5-year gap? Does that still qualify as adaptation? What has been utilized from the funding?
Digging deeper for more details, Engr. Cyndi Argote (DPWH-BOM RCME division chief) says that the said project aims to cover all specific roads and slopes around Luzon that have been devastated by the typhoons in 2009. However, she contested that the project is not intended for adaptation but rather for disaster risk reduction and rehabilitation. At present, 2014, DPWH has still several on-going Post Ondoy and Pepeng rehabilitation projects such as in Pampanga and Nueva Ecija.
With the 5 year gap between the disaster and rehabilitation project, what could have caused the delay of implementation? Several factors had caused the delay according to Engr. Argote: Project design, bidding and approval of contractor, approval from the department secretary, survey and site investigation, actual current condition of the site.
She revealed that there are some sites that were not well implemented due to the changes of the site’s current condition. For road rehabilitation, the project only focused on concrete lanes that needs to be fixed but doesn’t consider the condition of the steep slope adjacent to it (which can present a hazard during extreme weather)– because the budget is intended only for the road itself. Engr. Argote believes that the actual current condition of the site must also be considered in the design of the project and allocation of funding.