BAGUIO CITY (Feb. 19) – One oversight after another in the program of work figures of a government infrastructure project here has made the city council seemingly wary as they aired so many questions on it.
“The Baguio Flyover project, at the Baguio General Hospital rotunda, will not be completed if the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) does not get the P64 million for Phase V; or the needed funds on top of the P106 million to complete Phases I to IV of the said project,” the regional highways director told the city council here, last Monday.
After DPWH Regional Director Mariano Alquiza said the flyover project will not be functional unless the national government released the amount to complete it, city councilors raised questions (and eyebrows), and especially that suspended Mayor Braulio D. Yaranon then against the construction raised a number of issues, including the non-availability of funds to complete it.
“If the funds are released in 2009, the project will be completed in 2010,” Alquiza disclosed. He said it is not likely funds will be released in 2008 but he quipped that his office will do everything to expedite the funding.
Some P88 million was earlier earmarked for the flyover construction, with some P44 million to come from savings from an earlier Marcos Highway rehabilitation work. Even the billboard displayed near the project site mentions only P88 million as the total cost to complete the project, but Alquiza was firm the project would cost around P170 million to P180 million, or nearly P100 million short of the original estimate.
Deficit due to delay, oversights
According to Alquiza, the delay in the implementation of the flyover project caused the difference in the costs. He added that there were some under estimated items like steel recorded as 210,547.71 kilograms when it should have been 345,487.04 kilos or a difference of 134,939.33. Estimated to cost P70 a kilo in 2000, the overlooked amount as Alquiza claimed could have been P9,445,753.10. In 2006, however, Alquiza claimed that the cost per kilo of structural steel went up to P136 that the deficit rose to P18,351,748.88.
Aside from the overlooked price of structural steel the DPWH-CAR also noted a steep difference in the prices of other construction supplies. Alquiza pointed out that portland cement which used to be P125 per bag in 2000 rose to P195 in 2006. He also mentioned that the cost of gravel and river sand went up by P250 and P200 per cubic meter, respectively. Even labor cost is now at an average of P300 daily, according to DPWH.
City Councilor Jose Mencio Molintas, said he could not understand why the costs were not adjusted in 2004 when Alquiza issued the Notice to Commence the project. Also in 2005, Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the re-alignment of the identified savings from an earlier Marcos Highway rehabilitation to certain road projects in Kapangan, Benguet and Tinglayan in Kalinga.
The DPWH estimates some P116 million as total costs to finish the flyover project as against the P88 million earlier estimated in 2000, or the difference of some P28 million.
Also worth-raising but none of the councilors did it, was the observation that the impressive improvement in foreign exchange does not translate to the actual prices of prime commodities, in this case, the price of construction materials. In December 2004, around the time when Alquiza issued the Notice to Commence, the US dollar was at an average of P54. It is now P48.45 to a US dollar, but the prices, as DPWH claimed have gone up.
Overvalued due to the oversight
A close look at the total DPWH figures, however, reveals a discrepancy of P10 million. The DPWH chief told the council that for Phase I, some P43 million is needed; Phase II, P19 million; Phase III, P24.2; and Phase IV, P20 million; or a total of only P106.2 million, not P116.2 million as computed by the DPWH.
For P10 million to be charged to oversight is quite large an amount for just one infrastructure project. To think that this was seen only as a miscalculation of four items in the budget leads one to suspect that there are other oversights as this one in the finer details of the program of work which DPWH did not furnish the media.
Councilor Perlita Chan-Rondez pointed out that the project costs too much that she contemplates that the amount could have been spent on other more cost-efficient projects, instead.
Alquiza estimated that a girder in infrastructure projects usually costs around half a million pesos. He did not provide the estimates for the Baguio Flyover project but computing from the P106 million, the 296 meter flyover will cost P358,108.11 per meter.
When the project was conceptualized in 2000, it used to be an underpass not a flyover. It enjoyed an endorsement from the city council through 261 on November 6, 2002 and approved by the Mayor Bernardo Vergara on September 18, 2002 and the regional development council (RDC) and it was issued an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in September 16, 2002, which was later change on March 3, 2003. The 2002 ECC, according to Alquiza was for an underpass, later amended as a flyover project.
Protests caused the delay
Alquiza insinuated that opposition to the flyover project caused the delay in implementation, thus the big discrepancy in the estimated project costs. “The project met several problems, otherwise it could have been done long ago,” he told the councilors Monday.
Some quarters of the populace, including suspended mayor Yaranon, however, protested the project saying among others that it lacks the rationale for its necessity and social acceptability.
The Tongtongan Ti Umili in 2003 said that the flyover project did not go through an investigation into the traffic situation in the area and that there was a manipulation for the utilization of the P43.83 million savings from the Marcos Highway rehabilitation project funded by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC).
Tongtongan also raised then that there was no consultation on the social acceptability of the BGH flyover. Alquiza, however claimed there were public consultations around February 2003.
Records show that Burnham-Legarda barangay council on December 7, 2002 passed a resolution opposing the construction of a two-lane flyover over the BGH rotunda, despite its endorsement by the city council. The local officials pointed to a worse business scenario with the flyover. They also pointed out that traffic buildup in the area is only during the rush hours only.
A group of concerned Baguio citizens also forwarded its opposition to the project as early as February 2003, invoking environmental concerns. Their opposition continued until recently.
Yaranon’s opposition was based on the absence of a certification of availability of funds and his advocacy over the watershed of the Bued River, which he claimed would be adversely affected by the digging operations in the BGH area. He said he did not want a project that would not be functional in the end for lack of funds. He also insisted that there was technical malversation of funds because he said, savings from another project could not be used for another. He did not endorse the cutting of trees in the project site.
Alquiza admitted that the savings from Marcos Highway would be reverted to the foreign funder if government did not use it, thus the agency proceeded with the flyover project.
Alquiza said some P83 million was available in 2004 for the phases I to III. He said the highways office did not foresee the causes of the delay. To date, only phase IV is up for bidding and the last phase, project completion, is awaiting funding. Only phase II, however is 100% complete as of December 2006 while Phase I is 48% complete and phase III, only 30% done as of February 15, 2007. # Lyn V. Ramo for NORDIS