By Business World, September 16 2019

Image Credit to DPWH/Business World

THE GOVERNMENT will spend around P63 billion next year for right-of-way acquisition — long a key obstacle to infrastructure projects — as implementing agencies ramp up work under the “Build, Build, Build” program in the remaining half of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s six-year term, a leader of the House of Representatives said in a news release on Sunday.

House Deputy Speaker Johnny T. Pimentel of Surigao del Sur’s 2nd District said in the statement that right-of-way funds under the proposed P4.1-trillion national budget for next year consists of P44 billion allocated to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and P19 billion for the Department of Transportation (DoTr).

The lawmaker said that DPWH right-of-way funds were meant for construction of new roads, flyovers and bridges.

Those allocated to the DoTr will go to major infrastructure projects such as Kalibo International Airport, Roxas Airport in Capiz, Dumaguete Airport in Negros Oriental, Calbayog Airport in Samar, Ipil Airport in Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga International Airport, Mati Airport in Davao Oriental, M’lang Airport in North Cotabato, the first phase of the Metro Manila Subway, North-South Commuter Railway, the South Long-Haul, New Cebu International Container Port and the Mindanao Railway Project.

Republic Act No. 10752, or the Right-of-Way Act, signed into law in 2016 by President Benigno S.C. Aquino III, set general guidelines for state acquisition of real property for infrastructure projects through donation, negotiated sale, expropriation or any other mode of acquisition.

In theory, DPWH and DoTr have to settle all right-of-way obligations before they start projects, but this has been a key problem that has delayed a number of major infrastructure projects. As a result, the national government has had to pay billions of pesos in penalties to such projects’ private sector contractors.

“To foster greater transparency, we are renewing our call for both departments to post on their respective Web sites the list of payees, the amounts paid and the properties acquired to pave the way for infrastructure projects,” Mr. Pimentel said in the statement.

“This is crucially important, considering that the allocations for RoW spending appear as lump sums in the budget.” — VACF