A Notice to the Public: Baguio City Road Construction
by Shiela May Aballa, Shekinah Angiwan, and Kimiyo Meadows
The Department of Public Works and Highways – Baguio City District Engineer’s Office (DPWH- BCDEO) stands by three principles:
(1) Right Cost – reasonable and fair budget allocation
(2) Right Project – constructions, rehabilitation and improvement where most needed
(3) Right Quality – durable and safe roads
Right Quality: Complaints on Road Construction
Salamat DPWH – Baguio is new “bungkal city” of the Philippines – Instead of the official page of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Baguio, this page is the first to appear if you search for “DPWH Baguio” on Facebook.
There are only two posts on this page. The first one is by Mark Anthony Molina. On August 27, 2011, he wrote:
can i know who is the officer in charge of the DPWH baguio!!! because last night i have accident i was running 20kph with my motor then suddenly i struck a gap on the road it is deep now my motor and my self flown away on the road my question is why do the DPWH construct a gap on the road and didnt coverd with cement that gap on the road is located at burnham road infront of ganza restaurant im the 3rd motorist who got accident in that area im lucky to survive and only minor bruises on my body is what ive got!!! can the damn DPWH fix that road u make people die!!!! im concern not only i got accident but im concern to my fellow motorist who are riding in that area!!!! baguio is on heavy traffic ryt now because of construction everywhere why do DPWH construct it on rainy season and during class season why dont they do it on summer times where baguio is not totally populated!!! WHY DPWH i need an answer!!! freaking road construction!!!
The DPWH is the first government agency that comes to mind when the topic is road construction. This is typical because the word “highways” is in the name and a responsibility of the department. But does this department accommodate complaints such as Molina’s?
Baguio City District Engineer Ireneo Gallato explained that many complaints were addressed to their department, but actually some complaints were not in their area of responsibility. Engineer Gallato clarified that their office’s concern is only the national roads in Baguio City. The Baguio City District Engineering Office (BCDEO) is not responsible for the complaints about the local roads, so not all traffic-related problems are their fault.
Engineer Gallato claims that they receive a lot of complaints, but when asked for the records of complaints, he said that they require a formal letter. Assistant District Engineer Romelda Bangasan did not show any record of complaints either, but she offered copies of the procedural response to complaints. The same reply can be found in local newspapers, they said.
When a taxi driver, who asked to remain anonymous, was asked to comment on the road construction in Baguio, he said that negative feedback is pervasive because of traffic and repetitive and simultaneous construction of the roads. He added that although they are upset, they cannot do anything about it. BCDEO claimed that they inform relevant agencies, like transportation offices such as the Traffic Management Branch (TMB), before a project is implemented, but the public utility drivers are not aware of this. The drivers also said that even if they were informed, it would still be an inconvenience.
Most of the time, “nagkikibit-balikat na lang kami,” one of the taxi drivers said. They passively live and work with what the higher offices implement.
“Paulit-ulit ginagawa ang Bokawkawan, halos yearly. Pero sabi ng engineer na kakilala ko, ‘pag concrete, tumatagal naman nang more than 10 years,” said another taxi driver. It is all about money because there are millions in the roads, he added.
BCDEO explains that they use a machine, Highway Development Management (HDM-4) System, to examine the roads and they base potential and ongoing projects on the results of the database. The treatment of the road depends on the level of damage to the road. Some roads need only a concrete or asphalt overlay. Others must be reconstructed completely.
One of the projects of the BCDEO for 2012 is to rehabilitate the bus terminal on Governor Pack Road. To accomplish this, the bus terminal will have to be transferred temporarily to the vacant lot beside Baguio Convention Center. One taxi driver said that the space in that vacant lot is not enough to use as a bus terminal and as far as he knows, that lot is property of another government agency.
Despite the criticisms that DPWH, especially BCDEO, faces, they still receive positive feedback. For example, Ayra Batore Laguitao’s post in the previously mentioned Salamat DPWH Facebook page from August 21, 2011, says “Please know first d reason behind it.” In addition to this, a taxi driver praised the contractor of the Marcos Highway project for finishing earlier than expected. He added that Marcos Highway is better now than before.
Many of the citizen’s complaints should not be directed to DPWH-Baguio. The residents and drivers are at fault as well in assuming that the DPWH is simply not doing its job.
Right Project: The Road Construction Process
When the public hears ‘DPWH’, they immediately think of Photoshop and shame, incompetence, and most of all, inconvenience. For the people of Baguio especially, because of the simultaneous road constructions during the rainy season, 2011 was both challenging and frustrating, resulting in what may have been maximum inconvenience for the travelling public. This is a fact, but maybe it’s time we understand the process involved in road construction, and maybe it might result in lenience for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) if it happens again.
The DPWH operates on national roads only. To most of the public, as long as it is a road construction, DPWH is behind it. But actually, the local roads are handled by the local government, under the City Engineer’s Office, with a totally separate process and budget.
DPWH gets its budget from the Regular Infrastructure Fund, which is supposed to be released at the start of the year. Last year, the Baguio City District Engineer’s Office (BCDEO) received a lot of complaints concerning the simultaneous road constructions conducted by DPWH-Baguio. The road constructions that were most disruptive, being simultaneous and in close proximity to each other, were on Bokawkan Road, Ferguson Road, and Quezon Hill Road. Not only were the road constructions simultaneous in the busiest parts of the city, they started the road constructions in June, which is the start of classes, and also the start of the rainy season.
There were articles about the typhoons delaying the road constructions, but then why start the road constructions at a time that is known to be prone to strong rains and typhoons? For last year, the problem lies in the release of the budget. The DPWH budget for 2011 was released in March, instead of January. According to Baguio City District Engineer Ireneo Gallato, it takes up to two months to finish processing all the papers required to start the road constructions. It is easy to put the blame on the national level, but Gallato and his office acknowledge that they were at fault as well.
DPWH had 10 projects in Baguio City last year. They were two projects at Magsaysay Avenue, Quirino Highway, Major Mane Road, Outlook Drive, Ferguson Road, two projects at Loakan Road, Bokawkan Road, and Quezon Hill Road. They have all been completed by the end of last year. Compared to last year, the minimum inconvenience and speed with which the road constructions this year have been finished is commendable. DPWH has 18 projects in Baguio City for 2012. They are the roads along the stretch of Abanao Road, Kayang Street, Harrison Road 1, Governor Pack Road, Government Center Road, Leonard Wood Road, and Marcos Highway. By February, seven road projects have already been completed. What made the difference between this year and the last?
Road construction is not an easy job. It is a long process and is never appreciated by the travelling public while it is ongoing, sometimes even after. Aside from allocating budget, DPWH has to do a public bidding for the contractors, and once a contractor has won the bid, they need a month for implementation, which requires testing the road and processing the contract and other papers.
Road constructions this year started in January. Some of the ongoing projects have been delayed due to the Panagbenga Festival and the anticipation of graduation, but unlike last year, DPWH was very much prepared for 2012 because of so much negative feedback from the travelling public. As early as November 2011, they conducted detailed engineering pre-construction activities, where they identified the projects that have to be done for 2012. In December 2011, they had already finished the papers for pre-construction, advertisement, notice of award, and notice to proceed. So come January 2012, when the budget was released, they started immediately.
DPWH can also be commended for the informational boards that they have put up at the sites of ongoing and impending road constructions. Now, not only do the public know the budget for the road construction, they also know who the contractor is, where the road construction starts and ends and how long the project might take. Apparently, the road signs and traffic signals are part of the budget given to the contractors, so the public can make a formal complaint if the site lacks these.
So why do we only now notice the effort that DPWH is making? While the road constructions are ongoing, DPWH gets so much negative feedback, but after the roads are done, they get practically no praise. DPWH has done a lot for our city. It cannot be denied that they could have done so much better last year, but it is apparent that they quickly learned from that and recovered. For example, they anticipated how their projects would affect traffic, so they finished the smaller constructions before the Panagbenga Festival. All that’s left now are their projects in Governor Pack Road, Abanao Extension, Chanum Street, Kayang Extension, Kisad Road, A. Bonifacio Road, two projects in Quirino Highway, M. Roxas Road, PMA Cut-off Road 1, and PMA Road.
If DPWH-Baguio can do it fast and with less inconvenience, why did they not do it that way in the first place? There are other factors that affect their efficiency. Some of them are: they do not control the release of the budget, or sometimes the contractors have to re-bid because they cannot comply with the government’s requirements, or there might be some unforeseen complications like the soil eroding or a sewage breaking, or sometimes the problem lies with the contractors, like if they lack materials or manpower.
Speed and minimum inconvenience may have developed late on the part of DPWH-Baguio, but as the saying goes, it’s better late than later.
Right Cost: Budget Allocation
The concerned public often asks, “Where do our taxes go?” This is justified by the fact that funds for government projects are partly comprised of citizens’ taxes, and naturally, these citizens want reassurance that they will get their money’s worth. In the case of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), budget allocation is a matter given much serious consideration.
In the year 2011, the budget allotted to the DPWH amounted to Php 208 million. This year saw an increase of Php 3 million, bringing the total up to Php 211 million. The sum of money that the department receives yearly is based on a proposed amount from the central office of DPWH, but the amount given will not necessarily match the proposal. Ultimately, the decision comes down to whether as much as is being asked is actually needed, based on the gravity and number of projects the department will undertake and the inflation of costs of raw materials and equipment.
How, then, is the money actually spent? For each project of the DPWH, a contractor must commit and sign an official contract before beginning actual road work. Contractors are not randomly chosen but enjoined in a bidding process for the project. The DPWH aims for the lowest price of labor and materials without sacrificing the quality (especially for safety and longevity) of road work. Once bidding is finished, the project is awarded to the winning contractor and the manual labor can begin. In sum, pre-construction activities take only one month.
For the year 2012, Engineer Gallato said, “We are allowed to conduct a pre-detailed engineering … as long [as] naidentified na ang project …. Last 2011 … I think that was October, we started the detailed engineering of this project, and … by the end of December, almost all our projects, natapos na ang bidding. Ready for implementation. Hintayin lang namin ‘yong pagdating ng pondo, ‘tsaka namin inaward dahil hindi kami pwede magaward ng project sa contractor kung wala pa ‘yong pondo.”
In the interest of the public who will use these roads, the payment for the contractor is withheld until the project is completely finished. However, if there is a lack of materials, the contractor may ask for partial payment in order to continue working without interruption. Complete materials and equipment of good quality are also important to road quality, hence the allowance of partial advance.
Another scenario in which the payment might be docked is if the team does not finish the job on time. Because of the urgency of their task, they may be asked for liquidated damages if they exceed the deadline agreed upon. The amount deducted depends on the contract. This is also the protocol for any other shows of poor performance. Contractors must rectify unsatisfactory jobs at their own expense.
Once the project is completely done, the contractor is asked to submit an accomplishment report to the Department of Budget Management for billing. This must include the statement for work and other supporting documents. Given that there are no discrepancies or any kind of problem with the paperwork, the full payment will be released 20 to 25 working days after submission. Savings from DPWH projects are utilized for the continuation of still ongoing projects or starting of new ones.
It is not commonly known that the DPWH-BCDEO is responsible only for national roads. Hence, not all road constructions going on in the city are under their command. Their efforts and funds are dedicated only to national roads. Any construction on roads besides national roads is the work of local government: the City Engineering Office (CEO). Both offices manage road construction, but because of the differentiation, the budget of the DPWH-BCDEO is separate from that of the CEO. Each agency also has its own set of officials and, depending on its scope, its own projects.