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End the toleration of unfinished projects



TOO many public works projects have not been completed for too many reasons in many parts of the country. In Metro Manila, the elevated highway connecting the North Expressway to the South Expressway was started during the administration of President Benigno Aquino III, with concrete columns rising in several parts of the project, but nothing in other parts where there ap­parently were problems of right of way.

In other projects, local residents have complained that their roads were dug up at the start, causing traffic problems, then left unattended for weeks and months. In other cases, perfectly good roads were torn up.

Last week, Secretary Mark Villar of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) vowed this all-too-common practice of public works projects left unfinished for months will no longer be tolerated. He announced a system of checking on contractors, along with penalties for violations.

As soon as the system detects a slippage of 5 percent, he said, the contractor is given a warning and required to submit a “catch-up program” to eliminate the slippage. If the slippage worsens to 10 percent, the contractor is given a second warning and required to submit a detailed action plan he will undertake in the next two weeks, specifying the additional resources in funds, manpower, materials, equipment, and management mobilized for the action program.

If the slippage reaches 15 percent, the contractor is given a final warning and required to submit a more detailed program of additional inputs. At least once a week, the DPWH will evaluate the contractor’s performance. The project manager, district engineer, or regional engineer will prepare a contingency plan for the termination of the contract and takeover of the project by administration or by another contract.

All contractors found to have incurred a 15 percent slippage or more are disqualified from future biddings.

Secretary Villar disclosed that the department has now blacklisted 14 contractors. Among them are the contractors in a bridge project in Camarines Norte, a flood control project in Cagayan, a road proj­ect in Iloilo, school buildings in Surigao del Sur, and repair of several buildings in Surigao del Norte.

The administration will soon go full-blast in implementing its “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program, with the DPWH at the center of it all. We cannot launch so many projects only to have them remain uncompleted for months or even years as in the past.

Many who have seen so many delayed projects in the past under so many administrations are understandably skeptical that it will be any different this time, but Secretary Villar, with his new system of penalties for contractors falling behind in their projects, shows he intends to stop the old practice of tolerating violations. With President Duterte behind him, we should have a new era of infrastructure construction in our country.