Government projects, typhoons and public vigilance
posted 11-Jun-2018  ·  
1,225 views  ·   0 comments  ·  

Last June 1, 2018, after more than two years of construction, the modernized Virac Airport terminal building was finally inaugurated, with no less than Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade as the guest of honor.

He asked the people of Catanduanes not to thank him, but President Rodrigo Duterte whose platform of governance, particularly the “Build, Build, Build” mantra, pushes for enhanced connectivity and mobility for Filipinos across the Philippine archipelago.

Never mind that the project implemented by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) actually began in January 2016, six months before the Duterte took over Malacanang.

The P44-million project was supposed to be completed after a year, with inauguration set on January 2017, before it was derailed by the arrival of typhoon Nina on December 25, 2016. Not only did the storm’s 255-kph winds destroy nearly 7,000 homes in four southern towns, it also laid waste to the nearly completed terminal building, reducing the frail glass and aluminum windows to smithereens.

Nevertheless, after providing an additional funding for the repair, CAAP finally completed the passenger terminal building which compares with modern terminals in the country’s major domestic airports.

But with two tropical disturbances hovering just east of Samar-Bicol area as of this writing, somehow taxpayers must wonder if the repair work actually incorporated lessons left by Nina and withstand the assault of incoming typhoons in the remaining seven months of 2018 and beyond.

That same question must be asked of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional office, which is implementing the previously controversial Boulevard Expansion and Widening Project that would cost nearly a billion pesos by the time it is completed in 2020.

People, particularly the Salbaron ang Baybayon netizens, could not be faulted for looking at the project with doubts in their hearts considering the way the project was began.

The project’s touted purpose of protecting the poblacion from storm surge did not gain much credence as expanding the boulevard 12 meters into the sea took away from the common folks their enjoyment of a weekend swim on the beach.

The contractor also did not make things easier for the project’s backers when it flubbed the piling work. Recently, the DPWH Catanduanes Engineering District called the attention of the regional office on two things: first, the designer forgot to include in the plans the portion right in front of the port and its backup areas; and, second, the contractor of the second phase managed to destroy a portion of the existing sea wall at Sta. Cruz, intending to use the free rubble in place of expensive boulders.

Fortunately, the contractor was convinced by the local DPWH’s reasoning to leave the existing seawall as a second line of defense behind the new shore protection it would build. On the other hand, the DPWH regional office reportedly estimated the cost of the forgotten portion in front of the port at about P10 million or so.

It is now incumbent upon the people, the project’s ultimate beneficiaries, to ensure that the project would be built according to specifications and to sue anyone, to borrow Congressman Cesar Sarmiento’s words to the electric cooperative, found to have failed to deliver.

This is vital, in the light of a local official’s disclosure that the coral reef in front of the very same, heavily-denounced boulevard project, is among the top 10 priority reclamation projects in Bicol by the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA).

Little is known about the purpose of the reclamation, except perhaps for the expansion of Virac’s crowded business center and the construction of coastal protection from storm surge. Salbaron people probably cannot take to heart Cong. Sarmiento’s declaration that he would be the first to oppose it but they should be at the forefront of a campaign against the proposed reclamation lest the people be caught unaware, again.

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