Change in plans for underpasses leads to walkout

A DISAGREEMENT on what funds to ask for in connection with three underpass projects marked the first full council meeting this year of the Regional Development Council (RDC).

Cebu City North District Rep. Raul del Mar objected to the approval of several projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) 7 and walked out right after the RDC’s meeting yesterday.

During the meeting, the congressman questioned why some of the projects of DPWH 7 for the first district of Cebu City were not included. He also said he was not consulted on the changes in the programs, activities and projects of DPWH 7.

Del Mar pointed out that during the consultation stage with the public works office, he signed the list of projects that would be submitted to RDC 7 but what was presented yesterday was different.

“I left the meeting because there’s no sense in staying in the meeting. They submitted the list of projects for approval and for our signature. I signed it, and it was approved in the regional office of DPWH. Now, I was surprised because it’s a different version. Isn’t that fundamental that since they asked for my signature and approval for the first version, they should also do it for the updated version?” he told reporters.

The projects included the construction of three depressed structures, commonly called as underpasses. The first spans D. Jakosalem St., F. Sotto Drive, Archbishop Reyes Ave., Gov. M. Cuenco Ave. to Talamban proper; the second from Salinas Drive, Pope John Paul II Ave. to Sergio Osmeña Jr. Blvd.; and third, from Cardinal Rosales Ave., then F. Cabahug St., to Hernan Cortes St.

The RDC 7’s co-chair for infrastructure development, Glenn Anthony Soco, moved for the approval of the projects under DPWH 7 during yesterday’s meetings. Appropriations for the three underpass projects were included.

However, the P964-million appropriation for the three underpass projects will only cover the feasibility study.

Del Mar said the appropriation is a duplication since there is already a feasibility study being conducted for the three projects.

“If the feasibility study will not be finished this year then the construction cannot go on so, we didn’t lose anything. But if they will not appropriate for the actual construction work and the feasibility study will be completed this year, we cannot work next year but only in 2020,” del Mar said. “That is too late.”

Engr. Nonie Paylado, chief of the planning and design division of DPWH 7, explained that during a meeting of the technical working group that the RDC 7 had formed, the need for the feasibility studies was emphasized.

“According to our national office, projects of that magnitude should undergo feasibility study first,” he said.

Soco said they decided to allocate for the feasibility study to determine first if the projects are ideal for certain areas in the city.

After what happened to the meeting yesterday, del Mar said he will just revisit his concerns when the projects are brought up before Congress, where the national budget is deliberated on.

“I will just handle this when we take up the general appropriations bill and discuss all the projects,” the congressman said.

RDC 7 Co-Chairman Kenneth Cobonpue said their role in the council is to determine if the projects being endorsed are beneficial to the public.

“We are not a stamp pad for every project that comes in. Otherwise, dili na lang mi molingkod diri (we wouldn’t have to sit here) and we can let Director (Efren) Carreon (of NEDA 7) approve everything,” he said.
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