Too few workers for P4-B DPWH projects
posted 19-May-2018  ·  
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More than P4-billion in infrastructure projects to be implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) this year could be delayed due to the lack of construction workers in the province.

The problem has been compounded by a new DPWH policy requiring the completion this year of all 2018 projects as well as that of prior years.

According to the office of DPWH OIC-district engineer Gil Augustus Balmadrid, the lone district of Catanduanes has been allotted the total amount of P2,532,665,000.00 for different projects in the General Appropriations Act for 2018. This represents a huge 43% increase compared to the 2017 allocation of P1.77 billion.

The district budget is broken down as follows: P996 million for the national road network; P690 million for flood control structures; P300 million for convergence and special support projects; P442 million for locally-funded projects; and, P103 million for foreign-assisted projects particularly along the Catanduanes Circumferential Road.

The P2.5 billion kitty does not include the P1.4 billion in school building funds of the Department of Education (DepEd) that would be implemented by DPWH Catanduanes. The Tribune learned that the local DPWH will ask for an extra P200 million for additional work items for the school building projects.

A source told the Tribune that the 50 DepEd projects ranging from two-storey, two-classroom buildings to four-storey structures of 17 classrooms will be constructed in Virac (11 buildings), Bato (3), San Miguel (2), San Andres (6), Batas (3), Viga (3), Panganiban (2), Bagamanoc (3), Gigmoto (2), Caramoran (10) and Pandan (5).

DPWH engineers as well as local contractors have been aware of the dearth of experienced construction workers, particularly skilled ones such as carpenters and masons, which have resulted in delays in several infra projects in Virac, San Andres and other towns. A number of contracts covering on-going projects with slippages are in danger of being terminated should the contractor fail to complete them as per revised schedules.

The dearth of workers has been exacerbated by a recent decision of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to implement Cash-Based Budgeting in 2019 and subsequent years.

Under the policy, only goods delivered and services rendered for the period January 1 to December 27, 2019 must be paid in 2019, with the payables to be booked up for payment during a three-month extension.

DPWH Secretary Mark Villar has already ordered the department’s field offices to require inclusion in the contract that “only accomplishments up to the last working day of the year will be paid and the remaining unpaid balance will automatically expire.”

The unpaid balance of the contract shall be included in the next infrastructure program or lined up in a Special Purpose Fund with the DBM,” he added.

During the current transition year, the DPWH chief stated, contractors must be informed that all on-going contracts for FY 2018 and prior years should be accomplished in FY 2018, with all prior years’ obligations to be paid during the same year.

This means that the P2.5 billion regular DPWH fund for infra projects as well as the P1.6-billion school building program will have to be finished within 2018. Contractors will have to undertake simultaneous implementation of different projects, thus requiring greater numbers of skilled workers and laborers.

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