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A love for concrete

Senator Franklin M. Drilon led his cohorts in Iloilo City politics in the ground breaking ceremonies for a P300-million widening project of the Benigno Aquino Jr. Avenue (or better known as Diversion Road) from its existing six lanes to 12 lanes in ceremonies last Wednesday, Feb. 26.

It is supposed to be a reiteration of Drilon’s commitment to pour more infrastructure projects into Iloilo City and kick its development into high gear. There is no hiding the obvious objective of persuading Iloilo City voters to keep Drilon’s pet politicians — Jerry Trenas, Jed Patrick Mabilog and Joe Espinosa III — in office through the May 13 elections.

Drilon wants to impress the people with the gargantuan sums of money involved. But do these projects really pack a wallop in terms of development? Will a 12-lane highway (a 2.5-kilometer stretch) boost the city’s progress?

Let’s look at the project objectively. With its six lanes, the Diversion Road can easily handle its present traffic load. There are not that many cars and trucks passing through it to warrant additional lanes. The only time there is congestion is when SM City Mall holds a “sale”, and the left-turn and U-turn slots in the middle island chokes the flow of vehicles. Other than that, the volume of vehicles going through it isn’t enough to require more lanes.

There is no engineering logic to it as well. At the end of the highway is a four-lane bridge linking Mandurriao with Molo, or better known as the Infante Bridge. It’s not hard to see that six lanes from the north will clog upon reaching the bridge which provides for just two lanes on each side. It’s a classic “bottleneck” effect that is apparently lost upon the people who conceived this project.

Does Iloilo City need this project? Apparently, no.

Drilon is only undertaking the project for posturing purposes (read: politics), unmindful of the waste of public funds. And since this involves concrete, we can readily see where much of the money will go. This love of concrete translates to a love of kickbacks.

 

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Group seeks probe of ‘overpriced’ bridge

Group seeks probe of ‘overpriced’ bridge.

An ‘obscene’ City Hall building

Rick B. Ramos of the Citizens Infrastructure Integrity Watchdog (InfraWatch) has described the New Iloilo City Hall, which was built at a total cost of P810 million, as “obscene” and an insult to the people of Iloilo City. He was guest yesterday in the Kapehan sa Bali.

Watchdog slams corruption in Dungon Bridge project

It was bad enough that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) demolished the Dungon Bridge even though its structural condition was still good for the overpriced cost of P36 million. What made it worse was that the “matuwid na daan” government of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III spent an additional P17 million to “widen” it into a four-lane bridge when modern technology could do the job at a cheaper cost.

Rick B. Ramos, executive director of the Citizens Infrastructure  Integrity Watchdog (InfraWatch), said there are several existing bridge projects in the country that utilized the metal plate connector technology to increase the vehicle handling capacity from two- to four-lanes. Among these is the Soro Soro Bridge in Binan, Laguna which was also implemented by the DPWH.

 

The Dungon Bridge was reopened to vehicular traffic two months ago after a public uproar over its delayed completion. When Ilonggos started using it again, they were aghast to discover that the four-lane design that cost them P53 million all in all had not been completed. The roadway on the bridge remained two lanes, with their money already down the drain.

The Dungon Bridge project was pushed by Iloilo City Representative Jerry P. Trenas with help from Senator Franklin Drilon, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. The money for the project came from “savings” of the DPWH, unexpended funds that were scooped from several completed projects to raise a total of P53 million. It was also Drilon who allocated the P65 million to buy the P7 million San Isidro relocation site for the urban poor.

Ramos said the P31.4 million, which later rose to P36 million, for the original contract of the Dungon Bridge project was excessive by itself. He reiterated that the bridge was still in good condition, and it would have been enough for DPWH to reinforce its columns, girders and abutments for more secure structure. But Ramos disclosed that a two-lane bridge project in Negros Occidental completed only last April cost only P21 million. Its length is almost the same as Dungon Bridge.

Ramos had written to DPWH secretary Rogelio Singson, who is always being praised as the paragon of transparency and honesty, about the Dungon Bridge last August 13. But his complaint has been ignored. Philippine Star columnist Boo Chanco wrote about the Dungon Bridge on Sept. 3 based on the Ramos letter. Singson never bothered to respond to him. In a Tweet on Wednesday, @boochanco said Singson has adopted a “deadma”, or indifference, stance towards criticism like this.