I watched the episode of GMA News TV’s Investigative Documentaries last Thursday, June 5 that focused on the despicable DPWH road-widening projects and the shameless cutting of old-growth trees along the national roads. GMA News TV exposed the insanity that DPWH, the favorite agency of President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd, has done in Los Baños, Laguna, and in Bulan, Sorsogon.
Last Sunday, the team of Investigative Documentaries brought me to the site of the controversial DPWH project in Los Baños, Laguna. I was invited in my capacity as Executive Director of InfraWatch (Citizens Infrastructure Integrity WatchDog) to analyze and comment on the despicable project, which widened a national road out of nowhere where few vehicles pass before entering the Mt. Makiling National Park.
The insane DPWH project that we saw is the 500-meter road widening in the middle of nowhere. When we were there last Sunday, they were about 10 cars that passed in 45 minutes. It just shows there is hardly any justification for the shameless road-widening just before the sign “Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve.” It is obvious that this is typical of DPWH projects that are “supply-driven” due to corruption.
This initial 500-meter road-widening project in Los Baños, Laguna, is a Triple-Whammy to the Filipino people. First, it is not needed since there is no traffic volume and therefore a sheer waste of public funds to the tune of P16.9 million!
Second, the useless road-widening damaged the environment because close to 30 old-growth trees were cut. The canopy formed from the branches and leaves of these huge trees are now gone forever!
Third, the quality of construction is full of deficiencies from the substandard concrete used and to the way it was applied. The thickness of the concrete is not the specified 12 inches (0.3 meter) that DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson boasts of. It is three (3) to four (4) inches less in thickness or 30 per cent short of the required thickness!
Even the steel bars inside the retaining wall are undersized and not placed properly in position (at the edge of the wall!). The size of the steel bars is only 12 mm (1/2 inch) when it should be at least 16 mm, if not 20 mm reinforcing bars.
Oh, there is a fourth. Since the construction work is obviously substandard, then the dubious DPWH project is therefore obscenely overpriced. Remember the more than 200 inhuman bunkhouses built by the DPWH costing P200 million for the survivors of Super Typhoon Yolanda? Secretary Singson admitted at the Senate hearing that these bunkhouses are substandard in materials, but that they not overpriced. Rehabilation Chief Panfilo Lacson said the same thing earlier. How hilarious !
The DPWH allowed its favored contractor to cut the trees (close to 30 of them) so the work of road-widening could be done, including the retaining walls for slope protection, but did not wait for the concrete posts (power lines) to be removed first prior to construction. This made it crystal-clear that the DPWH and its favored contractor were really in a hurry to make money. Obviously there was connivance between them.
There is supposed to be a policy of the DPWH to first remove all obstructions prior to construction of roads, but the District Engineers and Regional Directors always ignore that policy so as they could get their commissions fast from their favored contractors. Secretary Singson wrote to InfraWatch three years ago in 2011 on the avowed Policy in response to the Policy Recommendation we made that included the same on removal of obstructions.
Road-widening and cutting of trees in Bulan, Sorsogon
GMA News TV featured the brazen cutting by the DPWH of 50 out of the 101 old-growth trees in Bulan, Sorsogon. The residents of Bulan are up in arms! These trees were planted by their parents and grandparents. Some of the trees were planted 20 to 30 years ago when they were students in high school. These huge acacia and narra trees that provided the canopy or “tree tunnel” are the proud landmark of the people of Bulan.
The DPWH justified the need to cut the trees by lying that they were too close to the national road. Not true! They were about 1.5 meters away from the edge of the national road. So there was really no issue of safety here. The retaining walls and metal guardrails built in Los Baños are even closer to the edge of the widened road—they are between half a meter to as close as one foot or 12 inches, which is very dangerous!
The other justification of the DPWH for the cutting of the trees is the goal of road-widening itself. But there is hardly any traffic there to justify having a four-lane national highway in Bulan in far-flung Sorsogon at the end of the Bicol Peninsula. What needs to be done is just to do maintenance work and/or rehabilitation since the concrete pavements have already deteriorated. A simple two-inch (50 mm) asphalt overlay would suffice and some repair works on any damaged sections.
After watching the Investigative Documentaries of GMA News TV the other night, I realized that the most cruel joke played on us by a President of the Philippines is the Daang Matuwid of Aquino. Amazing and unrivalled is the hypocrisy of President B.S. Aquino 3rd who commended the DWPH in its 115th anniversary in June 2013. Secretary Singson also hypocritically spoke of “transformation (and) radical changes” in the DPWH.