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‘Delayed 2019 budget is stalling our priority infra projects’ – Abu

By JOENALD MEDINA RAYOS

“THE house leadership is very keen on passing the 2019 annual budget when Congress resumes its session on Monday as there are lots of government programs and projects that are being tied or delayed due to the non-approval of the new budget.”

Thus, this is how Deputy Speaker and Batangas’ 2nd District Congressman Raneo E. Abu said in an interview Friday morning as both houses of the Congress are set to resume on Monday, January 14.

“Our 2019 national budget has already passed the different committees and has been approved already in the lower house. That’s why we are then calling on our counterpart in the Senate and the bicameral committee to act on the passage of the GAA when the session resumes on Monday,” Abu emphasized.

IN an interview during the ocular visit at the stretch of the on-going Batangas City-Bauan By-Pass Road, Deputy Speaker Raneo E. Abu calls on the Senate and the Bicameral Committee to speed up the approval of the 2019 Annual Budget as it is stalling the by-pass road and other priority infrastructure projects in the country.|Photo by JOMAR S. DAVID

The lawmaker said, there are programs whose effective implementation are relying on the passage of the new General Appropriation Act (GAA) like the salary standardization of government employees, social and basic services and continuation of infrastructure projects identified as priority projects in the government’s build, build, build flagship program.

Among these infrastructure endeavors are the countless road widening projects across the country, and the new road networks being built in the countryside.

In Batangas alone, the delay in the approval of the new budget greatly affects the on-going P1.104-billion Batangas City – Bauan By-pass Road that is envisioned to declog the worsening traffic situation in the San Pascual-Bauan portion of the Batangas City-Palico Highway that accelerates the transport cost of both services and products of the industries along the Batangas Bay.

It can be recalled that Public Works and Highways secretary Mark Villar said during the groundbreaking ceremony last November 2017 that President Rodrigo Duterte himself has already identified this project as among the priority projects of the DPWH and the DPWH regional Office IV-A is mandated to fast-track its construction as it will spur development in Batangas’ first, second, third and fifth districts.

The Batangas City-San Pascual-Bauan By-pass Road is a multi-year funded project that started in 2017. The project is implemented by the Regional Office No. 4-A and Batangas II District Engineering Office.

The whole project covers the Construction of  Batangas – San Pascual – Bauan Road, which includes national road in Barangay Balagtas, Batangas City and passes through various barangays in Batangas City, San Pascual, and Bauan of agricultural land of rolling terrain then goes the nothwestly direction traversing mostly rolling terrain down towards flat agricultural areas and will finally connect to the existing national road of Mabini-Bauan Road at Barangay San Roque in Bauan town.

Divided into two major segments – the Balagtas-Banaba portion in Batangas City under the Batangas’ 2nd Engineering District, and the Banaba-Manghinao Portion that is being implemented by DPWH-Regional Office IV-A – the by-pass road has a span of 30-meters width and a full length of 10.833 kilometers; and includes four bridges.

In the year 2017, a total of P199-million budget has been appropriated including the P120-m apportioned for acquisition of road right of way. In 2018 budget, some P633,190,000 were appropriated including the cost of two bridges.

“Here comes the immediate need to pass the budget as the P210-million proposed appropriation for the next two bridges are included in this 2019 GAA,” the lawmaker said.

As of this writing, Abu said that in around 15-month period since the project commenced in November 2017, about 52% of the total package is now complete.

Of the first two bridges included in the package in San Pascual town is around 72% complete with the girders to be positioned next month, while the construction of the other one is now underway. The other two bridges awaiting the 2019 are relatively longer, one with 80 linear meters in length, and the other one that spans 585.5 meters.

Meanwhile, Abu said that in the exercise of his oversight power as legislative representative of the people, it came to his knowledge that there are varying issues in the road right of way acquisition.

“We are also calling the attention of the DPWH to immediately respond to the queries and act double time to settle all issues surrounding the RROW acquisition,” DS Abu said.

The lawmaker further said that the success of the project is relying mainly on the two components – the passage of the budget, and the road right of way acquisition.

“While the arms of law can always be used in expropriating properties where the by-pass road would pass through, we are still extending our hands to reach out the property owners that the right of way be acquired through negotiated sale,” lawyer Marvey Gonzales, head of the Road Right of Way Task Force said.

Gonzales said, the DPWH is anticipating the approval of the appraisal of the properties come January 17 by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). The appraisal of the properties should have been done by the government financial institutions (GFIs), but for more than a year, no appraisal was made. This caused the department to hold three biddings for private appraisers but all of them failed as no bidders joined the bidding. Then the department entered into an agreement with another group of private appraisers to which the BSP’s approval is now expected as mentioned.

Of the total stretch of Banaba-Manghinao segment, all the property owners have signify their willingness to sell their properties and issued their respective notice of entry to the exclusion of a single landowner in Barangay Bayanan, San Pascual. These notices of entry paved the way for the DPWH and the contractors to proceed with the project. However, the single property left at the center of the road is yet to be acquired as lacking documentary requirements hinders the process of acquisition.

“We have already reached more than halfway of these project and its completion now relies on the approval of the 2019 budget, that’s why we are looking forward for the approval of 2019 GAA the time possible ,” the Batangueño solon said.

“While the road widening of the old national highway is nearing completion in the San Pascual-Bauan area, still, the declogging of our highways still rely on this by-pass road”, he added.

Should the approval of the budget be still delayed, the lawmaker also said the biddings of the other components of the by-pass road will also be delayed, plus the nearing election ban which would also hamper the continuous implementation of the project.|#BALIKAS_News