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By Francis Allan L. Angelo 

PRESIDENT Gloria M. Arroyo got a taste of so-called “boulevards of broken dreams” when she visited two towns in the second congressional district of Iloilo Thursday.

The President first visited Pavia to check the Anilao Bridge and the Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte road concreting projects in the said town.

Mrs. Arroyo also checked the ongoing works in the Pavia portion of the Iloilo Flood Control Project which she ordered finished this year.

The Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte, which was damaged during typhoon Frank, became controversial late last year when Pavia Mayor Arcadio Gorriceta accused Rep. Judy Syjuco of allegedly trying to “hijack” the P28-million project.

Gorriceta, who claimed that he initiated the project, then was mad upon learning that the 4th Engineering District will rehabilitate the road using “dakal-dakal” (sand and gravel) instead of asphalting or concreting.

President Arroyo intervened by ordering the concreting of the 3.4-kilometer provincial road in Pavia.

From Pavia, Mrs. Arroyo went on a bumpy ride on board a coaster of the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center to Alimodian, Iloilo where she led the groundbreaking rites for the Nichols Bridge project.

The President experienced the so-called “abortion roads” in Brgys. Aganan, Balabag, Pandac and Hibao-an, Pavia and San Jose, San Miguel en route to Alimodian.

The Department of Public Works and Highways deployed personnel who covered the potholes with sand and gravel in an attempt to afford the President with a smoother ride.

The road leading to San Miguel town proper has been a subject of complaints from residents and motorists after the asphalt pavement was damaged by big trucks carrying aggregates and filling soil.

The 4th Engineering District had promised to fix the road since last year but the road continues to hassle motorists and commuters to the Aleosan (Alimodian-Leon-San Miguel) area.

Interestingly, Rep. Syjuco and husband TESDA Director General Augusto Syjuco were part of the President’s party during the 3-hour visit.

In the briefing on the Nichols Bridge project, Mrs. Arroyo interrupted DPWH Usec. Rafael Yabut and told him to fast-track the project.

Yabut replied that they will work on a 24-7 basis to finish the bridge early.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) urged the Iloilo City government to relocate squatters from the banks of Dungon Creek so they can start dredging works immediately.

Engr. Rolando Asis, DPWH regional director, said they awarded last week the P50-million dredging contract to WTG Construction, a Cebu-based firm owned by William T. Go.

Asis said they will start digging the heavily silted Dungon creek once the 614 families living along the creek in Mandurriao and Jaro districts are transferred by the City Government.

The 3.5-kilometer Dungon Creek spans some 13 barangays and has been a major cause of flooding in the city.

The dredging project will deepen and widen the creek to prevent more floods. Funding for the project will be sourced from the P481-million budget of the DPWH which President Gloria Arroyo ordered released last May.

Asis said Engr. Al Fruto, DPWH Project Monitoring Office chief, met with the Iloilo City Urban Poor Affairs Office regarding the relocation of squatters.

“If we can gradually transfer them to the relocation site, we can start with the dredging. We also want to take advantage of the sunny weather because the equipment cannot move if there is rain and mud,” Asis said.

Asis said bad weather affected the accomplishment of major projects.

“I got a call from our central office informing me that our accomplishment has been low. Our average performance is around 50% of our target accomplishment,” he added.

City Hall announced it will transfer the squatters to the relocation site in Brgy. San Isidro, Jaro. It will also help relocatees obtain livelihood. In fact, they are conducting bakery, sari-sari stores, vegetable gardens and other skills training activities for them.

Two daycare centers and a health center will be established at the relocation site aside from improving the elementary school to absorb the relocatees’ children.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO-based contractors suspended by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) from bidding for local infrastructure projects can still appeal their case before the agency.

Engr. Rolando Asis, DPWH-6 regional director, said the contractors can still ask their central office to reconsider the suspension order issued by DPWH Sec. Hermogenes Ebdane.

Asis confirmed that Iloilo-based firms were among the 60 contractors barred from biddings for DPWH and other government agencies’ projects for one year.

These firms include IBC International Builders Corp., F. Gurrea Construction, J.S. Layson and Co., Roprim Construction, B.E. Construction, Patrila Builders and Topmost Development Marketing Corp.

Ebdane signed the suspension order May 21 as part of the agency’s reform initiatives following the fallout from the World Bank’s recent findings of collusion among the contractors for one of the country’s biggest road project.

Ebdane based his order on the recommendations of DPWH Joint Central Office-Bids and Awards Committee (CO-BAC).

The CO-BAC allegedly found the firms to have violated bidding and procurement procedures of locally-funded civil works.

The DPWH said the firms violated Republic Act 9184 (Government Procurement and Reform Act) with most of the contractors getting the bid documents only to ask other bidders to pay them so they won’t proceed.

Bidders who procured bid documents but did not participate three times in a year violated the DPWH’s three-strike policy.

The suspended firms particularly violated the provisions of Republic Act 9184 and the three-strike policy in procurement of civil works. Some of them have been suspended before for previous violations.

“We have given all concerned (firms) enough time and followed due process as required by law. After careful deliberation of the CO-BAC, 60 contractors were recommended for suspension and I have approved their recommendation effective immediately,” Ebdane said in a DPWH press release.

Ebdane said during the past few months, they summoned 216 contractors but only 168 responded, among these were the suspended firms.

“Those who failed to respond to the DPWH are already barred to bid, while the 60 who have responded, yet the DPWH found their reasons unacceptable, are suspended for one year effective today,” Ebdane said.

Ebdane said that after a year, these suspended contractors can ask to be reinstated in the list of accredited contractors following agency procedures.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Iloilo City government will appeal the decision of the World Bank (WB) to shorten its road widening project spanning Iloilo City and Capiz.

 

Engr. Rolando Asis, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH-6) regional director, said WB did not include the road section from Montinola Bridge in Jaro, Iloilo City to Zarraga, Iloilo in the National Roads Improvement and Management Program (NRIMP-2).

 

NRIMP-2’s road rehabilitation and upgrading program is supposed to extend from 2 lanes to 4 lanes the highway from Iloilo City to Capiz.

 

But Asis said the WB project will only cover Zarraga-Ivisan, Capiz section due to rising prices of materials.

 

“The initial project cost estimate in the feasibility study way back in 2000 was more than P400 million. But that estimate is not enough if we include the Montinola Bridge-Zarraga section. That’s the reason why the World Bank cut short the project scope,” Asis said.

 

Asis said the WB did not withdraw or suspend the project.

 

“They only shortened the scope of works because prices of materials went up. The WB commitment (to fund the project) is still there,” added.

 

Another factor why the project was shortened is the acquisition of private lots for the road-right-of-way.

 

The Zarraga-Ivisan rehabilitation and upgrading project will include the widening of 6 bridges spanning the two municipalities.

 

Asis said they appealed with WB to include the Montinola Bridge-Zarraga section reduce the traffic jam in the area.

 

“But if that section is not included in NRIMP-2, it will be included in NRIMP-3,” Asis added.

 

Six bridges in Iloilo will be widened in Iloilo – Casalsagan and Suage Bridges in Pototan town; Jalaur and Aglalana Bridges in Passi City; Abangay Bridge in Dingle town and Ulian Bridge in Duenas town.

 

Mayor Jerry Treñas asked the Sangguniang Panlungsod to pass a resolution appealing to WB to reconsider its decision.

 

Treñas said motorists passing through Montinola Bridge, which connects Brgy. Tabuc Suba to Jaro plaza area, suffer from traffic jams during rush hours because of its limited space.

 

Treñas said he will bring the matter to the attention of President Gloria Arroyo and DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane.

 

The City Council approved last the resolution authored by Councilor Eduardo Peñaredondo, committee on infrastructure chair, appealing WB’s decision to shorten the road project.

 

WB representatives recently met DPWH Project Management Office-National Road Improvement Project Director Carlos Mutuc, Asis and other district engineers to discuss the projects.

 

The WB team is composed of Ben Gericke, Yitzhak Kamhi, Dominic Aumentado and Victor Dato. The team also inspected the six Iloilo bridges that will be covered by NRIMP 2.

 

Juby Cordon, DPWH assistant regional director, said funds for the project are still being determined as WB and DPWH are still finalizing the project design.

 

“Their visit was aimed at determining areas that will be affected and looked into possible resettlement action. The project implementation might start next year. The six bridges that will get World Bank support were constructed in the 1980s and are already showing signs of deterioration,” Cordon said.

 

The WB recently uncovered a major cartel involving local and international firms bidding on NRIMP-1. It also barred seven companies – three from the Philippines and four from China – from bidding on its projects due to alleged corruption.

 

The World Bank’s corruption-fighting unit said the firms were blacklisted for “engaging in collusive practices” during the bidding of the project financed by the global development lender.

 

The blacklisted firms are:

 

–         Philippines-based E.C. de Luna Construction Corp. and its owner Eduardo de Luna were barred permanently, the strongest possible sanction and the first since 2004;

–         Philippines’ Cavite Ideal International Construction and Development Corp. and CM Pancho Construction, Inc. were each barred for four years;

–         China Road and Bridge Corp. was barred for eight years;

–         China State Construction Corp. and China Wu Yi Co. Ltd. were each barred for six years;

–         China Geo-Engineering Corp. was barred for five years;

–         Korean firm Dongsung Construction Co. Ltd was separately sanctioned in August 2008 for four years for fraud and corruption related to the NRIMP in the Philippines.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional office will investigate the alleged sale of excavated earth material from the P4-billion Iloilo Flood Control Project (IFCP).

 

DPWH regional director Rolando Asis said they will wait for orders from their central office in Metro Manila since the IFCP is funded and implemented by the national government.

 

Asis said the IFCP is directly supervised by the Project Management Office of the DPWH central office.

 

Engr. Jerome Borjal of the PMO is the IFCP project engineer.

 

“If the DPWH central office orders us to probe the matter, we will investigate it,” Asis said.

 

Asis said they will also take measures if proven that there are anomalies in the disposal of excavated soil which is considered government property.

 

Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias will meet officials of the DPWH and contractors Hanjin and China International Water and Engineering Corp. to look into the alleged sale of excavated soil.

 

Banias said he wants to get more information on the issue by asking the concerned agencies.

 

The sale of earth materials from the project caught media attention after the so-called “concerned citizens of Iloilo City” brought the matter to Department of Environment regional director Ricardo Calderon through a letter.

 

Calderon has referred the letter to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau headed by Engr. Lee Van Juguan.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

A CABINET member has taken interest in the alleged commercialization of excavated earth materials from the P4.26-billion Iloilo Flood Control Project (IFCP).

 

Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias said he followed media reports on the IFCP controversy, particularly The Daily Guardian’s story on the alleged sale of excavated soil to private entities.

 

Banias said he is still gathering more facts relative to the issue by meeting officials from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and Department Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

 

Banias holds an assistant secretary rank as presidential assistant for Region 6.

 

The controversy was exposed in the media after a group of “concerned citizens of Iloilo City” wrote DENR Regional Executive Director Raul Calderon about the commercialization of the earth materials from the project site.

 

The letter senders said the excavated earth materials are supposed to be utilized in the development of the resettlement site in Brgy. San Juan (Molo) and embankment and backfilling of the portions of the river (left after the rechanneling) which will not anymore be part of the active drainage.

 

But the letter writers claimed that personnel from the Department of Public Works and Highways handling the project and project contractors – Hanjin Corp. and China International Water and Electric Corp. – sell the earth materials to private persons to the disadvantage of the government.

 

Calderon has referred the letter to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) headed by Engr. Leo Van Juguan.

 

Juguan refused to comment on the letter until his office has submitted a memorandum to Calderon on how to act on the issue.

 

Juguan said they might propose a multi-partite investigation on the issue since the project involves various agencies.

 

Engr. Jose Al Fruto, IFCP assistant project manager, had said that excavated soil from the project is not for sale. The materials are disposed to areas identified by the DPWH prior to the implementation of the project in 2006. 

 

Fruto said they prioritize government projects in the disposal of excavated soil.

 

Sources who sought anonymity to freely discuss the issue said foremen, checkers and watchmen hired by Hanjin are allegedly involved in the sale of earth materials to a subdivision developer and two businessmen in Jaro and LaPaz districts.

 

A truckload of soil is sold at P500 to P1,200 depending on the distance of the disposal area from the project site.

 

The excavated soil are hauled to the buyers either noontime or late in the evening to avoid catching too much attention.

 

On Friday, another developer confirmed in an interview with Johnny Diaz of Aksyon Radyo that he bought truckloads of IFCP soil.

 

The developer said a Hanjin personnel offered the excavated soil as backfilling for his subdivision project at P1,200 per truck.

 

The Daily Guardian tried to get the side of Hanjin officials but they were not available.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has no control on the disposal of the excavated soil from the P4.26-billion Iloilo Flood Control (IFCP) except to identify the disposal areas.

 

Engr. Jose Al Fruto, IFCP assistant project manager, said he was tasked to identify disposal areas before the project commenced in 2006 “but the contractors oversee the disposal of the earth materials.”

 

The main component of the project is the 4.75-kilometer Jaro Floodway at the intersection of the Tigum and Aganan Rivers, which will divert floodwater coming from the two rivers to the Iloilo Strait. A 690-meter floodway is also being constructed in La Paz District.

 

Fruto said excavated soil is disposed to the following: IFCP requirements (around 40%), relocation sites and government projects, previously identified disposal areas and other areas within the 1-kilometer radius of the project.

 

Fruto said the excavated soil is not supposed to be sold to private firms or persons. If they want to get some earth materials, they will have to secure a certificate of non-coverage from the DENR.

 

Fruto said they heard reports that excavated soil is sold to private individuals, reason why they issued a memorandum to Korean contractor Hanjin that the earth materials are not for sale. 

 

According to IFPC workers who sought anonymity to talk freely on the issue, excavated soil was delivered to the properties of three businessmen near the project. A truckload of earth is sold at P1,200 to P3,000 depending on the distance of the disposal area.

 

Some of the excavated soil was allegedly sold to the subdivision owned by a certain William Gatchalian in Jaro and two Ilonggo Chinese businessmen in Jaro and LaPaz districts.

 

IFCP project manager Jerome Borjal had said that excavated soil from the project is not for sale since it is considered government property.

 

Iloilo City Jerry Treñas said some of the excavated soil was used in the development of the San Isidro relocation site in Jaro, Calajuanan landfill project in Mandurriao and other City Hall-initiated projects.

 

“What I know is that it’s for free. If it’s being sold, where does the money go? Who earned from it?” Treñas said.

 

PAVIA CASE

 

Properties owned by Mayor Arcadio Gorriceta of Pavia allegedly held a virtual monopoly as “disposal areas” for huge volumes of excavated soil from the IFCP Project in excess of the approved permits and upon express orders of the mayor not to allow disposal outside “authorized original sites.”

 

Pavia is also covered by the IFCP

 

Documents obtained by The Daily Guardian showed that Gorriceta directed the Pavia police to limit the hauling of excavated soil to only three sites, two of which are owned by his family, which are expected to gain substantial increases in market value as a result of the free backfilling materials.

 

A conservative estimate of the backfilling material that was dumped on the Gorriceta properties was placed at P20 million, at no cost to the owners.

 

In a letter dated February 1, 2009, Gorriceta ordered P/Chief Inspector Rogelio Ortigas to “strictly implement the deliveries of excavated materials from the Flood Control Project only to these authorized original sites,” with the family’s Barangay Balabag property getting more than 200,000 cubic meters and another lot near the Pavia National High School with 50,000 cubic meters.

 

Those haulers that delivered excavated soil to other sites were apprehended by the Pavia Police even though the authority to regulate the disposal of waste materials from the project is vested in the Iloilo Provincial Government.

 

The Project Management Office (PMO) headed by Engr Borjal had identified several sites in Pavia and Iloilo City as disposal areas for the excavated material.

 

However, Hanjin Heavy Industries Corp., the contractor, applied only for permits to dispose 50,000 cubic meters in the Balabag property, and 15,000 cubic meters for another lot located near the town’s high school. Both are owned by the Gorriceta family.

 

The permits were issued back in February 2007 yet.

 

However, the Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (PENRO) found out that as much as 200,000 cubic meters have been hauled to the Balabag property and 50,000 cubic meters to the other lot in violation of the provincial ordinance.

 

When Soledad Sucaldito, PENRO chief, investigated this, she was told by an engineer from the PMO that this happened because Gorriceta required the haulers to limit their disposal to their properties even when they had exceeded the approved volume.

 

Hanjin Heavy Industries Corp. has not explained why it picked only the Gorriceta properties as the disposal areas when there were other sites, especially low-lying lands in Pavia and Jaro which could have benefited from the backfilling material.

 

IDENTIFIED SITE

 

Gorriceta said they family’s property was identified as disposal area sometime in 2001-2002.

 

Gorriceta said he was not mayor when the DPWH chose their property as one of the disposal areas.

 

“That’s for free. We did not buy the soil. We volunteered our property because the DPWH was looking for disposal areas for unsuitable earth materials. No private property owner volunteered anyway. Maybe somebody is envious,” Gorriceta said.

 

Gorriceta said they also asked the DPWH in his April 14, 2009 letter to prioritize original identified disposal sites before giving the excavated soil to other private persons or firms.

 

The mayor also asked IFCP officials to guarantee in writing that the quantity of stockpiles reserved in enough to backfill the cut-off section of Aganan River at Brgys. Anilao and Ungka 1.

 

“The municipal council passed Resolution 2008-63 which stipulates that excavated materials from Aganan and Tigum River in Pavia should only be utilized within Pavia area. Indi pwede mapa-gwa o usaron outside of Pavia,” Gorriceta added. 

 

PROBE

 

Environment officials will probe the alleged commercialization of the excavated soil from the IFCP.

 

Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) regional executive director Raul Calderon directed the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) to act on the letter of concerned citizens of Iloilo.

 

The letter exposed the alleged commercialization of IFCP excavated soil by DPWH personnel and project contractors Hanjin and China International Water and Electric Corp.

 

MGB director Lee Van Juguan said they could not comment until they have submitted a memorandum to Calderon on how to deal with the problem.

 

Juguan hinted a multi-agency probe on the issue.

As of April 22, this is what Iloilo Flood Control Project in Jaro district looks like.  President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered for the completion to be hastened.  However, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said that the two contractors for this project have two different time frames in finishing the construction. (Photo by Tara Yap)

As of April 22, this is what Iloilo Flood Control Project in Jaro district looks like. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered for the completion to be hastened. However, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said that the two contractors for this project have two different time frames in finishing the construction. (Photo by Tara Yap)

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo 

ONE of the contractors of the P4-billion Iloilo Flood Control Project (IFCP) might not beat the deadline set by President Gloria Arroyo for the completion of the project.

 

Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas said the President wanted the project to be completed end of this year instead of September 2010.

 

Treñas, who met Mrs. Arroyo Friday last week, said the President set the new deadline in time for the rainy season.

 

The multibillion-peso project is designed to prevent massive flooding in the city and surrounding towns just like what happened last year at the height of typhoon Frank.

 

The mayor said he met Engr. Al Fruto of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH-6), IFCP project manager Jerome Borjal and representatives of contractors Hanjin Heavy Industries and China International Water and Electrical Corporation (CIWEC) to discuss the President’s instruction.

 

Officials of CIWEC, which is undertaking the improvement of Iloilo River, Upper Ingore creek and the banks of Jaro river mouth, said they can finish their work May to June 2009.

 

But Hanjin representatives said they might not beat the new deadline even if they work until 10pm daily.

 

The Korean firm said they will finish Package 1 of the project March or April 2010. The package includes the Jaro Floodway; construction of bridges in Brgy. Pagsanga-an and Anilao in Pavia, and Brgys. Tacas, Balabago, Buhang and Bitoon in Jaro district; and improvement of Aganan and Tigum Rivers.

 

Hanjin reported that they have completed more than 80% of their projects in the city.

 

The Jaro Floodway is 80% completed while Tacas Bridge is 94.97%, Balabago Bridge-89.40%, Buhang Bridge-88.80%, and Bito-on-85.75%.

 

The Daily Guardian learned that Fruto went to Manila early this week to discuss the new deadline with the DPWH central office. He was unavailable for interview.

 

The IFCP management staff said the rains since last week affected the progress of the project.

 

“You cannot just rush the project because of the massive work,” the staff said.

This portion of the rehabilitated national highway at Brgy. Jibao-an, Pavia, Iloilo leads right to the entrance of Savannah Subdivision which is owned by Senate President Manny Villar. (FAA photo)

This portion of the rehabilitated national highway at Brgy. Jibao-an, Pavia, Iloilo leads right to the entrance of Savannah Subdivision which is owned by Senate President Manny Villar. (FAA photo)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE sole road project of Senate President Manuel Villar in Iloilo leads right to his own subdivision straddling the towns of Pavia and Oton.

According to documents from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Budget and Management, Villar’s project is an asphalt overlay of the 586.6-linear meter portion of the national highway at Brgy. Jibao-an, Pavia.

“It was a road widening which includes the concreting of shoulder and sidewalk with gutter. A cross-drain was also established to avoid erosion of the road,” said DPWH regional director Rolando Asis.

Asis said road rehabilitation project paved the highway leading to the entrance of Savannah Subdivision which is owned by Villar.

Savannah, nine kilometers from Iloilo City, is an almost 300-hectare posh village established sometime in 2000.

Based on Special Allotment Release Order No. ROVI-2004-249, the road rehabilitation has a funding of P4 million.

The International Builders Corporation won the project contract for P3,884,040.47. The rehabilitation includes the asphalt overlay of 586.6 linear meters of road, concrete shoulders and sidewalk with curb and gutter.

DBM assistant regional director Alfonso Bedonia said the funds for the project were included in the 2003 General Appropriations Act.

“It was taken from the maintenance and other operating expenses under capital outlay of the DPWH. The DPWH has the discretion on how the allocation shall be used. Legislators could make a request to fund a certain project,” Bedonia said.

The original asphalt road was rehabilitated in 2004 after it was severely damaged by heavy trucks loaded with tons of aggregates passing through the area.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Office of the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal of 11 Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional officials for various offenses.

In separate orders, Overall Deputy Ombudsman Orlando C. Casimiro ordered the dismissal of the following: Wilfredo B. Agustino, Rudy G. Canastillo, Edward G. Canastillo, Cecil C. Caligan, Rolindo M. Perez, Vicente E. Vargas, Dennis P. Geduspan, Mayo R. Pelagio, Bernardo P. Yparosa, Jose M. Javier Jr., and Pio M. Gareza, Jr.

Agustino is the former DPWH-6 regional director while Rudy Canastillo is the former DPWH-6 assistant regional director.

Edward G. Canastillo and Caligan once headed the 4th Iloilo Engineering District based in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo as district engineer and assistant district engineer, respectively.

Agustino, Caligan and the Canastillos were dismissed for grave misconduct for conspiring to give “unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference” to one Rogelio Yap, the contractor for the construction of the Bancal-Leon-Camandag Road in Leon, Iloilo.

Investigation by the Ombudsman revealed that the said officials connived to make it appear that P6,733,329.23 was used for the excavation phase of the project, when what was actually spent was only P38,610.

Since Agustino is already retired, the Ombudsman imposed the accessory penalties to the dismissal order including cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, disqualification for reinstatement or reemployment and bar from taking any civil service examination.

In a separate case, Perez, Vargas, Pelagio, Geduspan, Yparosa, Javier, and Gareza – all of the 4th sub-engineering office of the DPWH office in Bago, Negros Occidental – were dismissed for grave misconduct in connection with irregularities in two projects for the improvement of the Camingawan-Pandan Road in Pontevedra town.

A special audit of the Pontevedra projects showed a discrepancy of P8,128,768.37, representing cost of materials and labor paid but not delivered or accomplished.

In addition, a discrepancy of P2,968,268.33 was also discovered representing cost of materials and labor which were utilized or applied in the project, but which were not included among the paid items.

Casimiro directed DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane to implement the dismissal orders meted on the said officials.

PGMA meddles in Pavia road project fiasco

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

PRESIDENT Gloria Arroyo has reportedly intervened in the squabble between Mayor Arcadio Gorriceta of Pavia, Iloilo and the Department of Public Works and Highways’ Iloilo 4th Engineering District over a P28-million road project.

Presidential assistant for Panay and Guimaras Raul Banias said President Arroyo has ordered the concreting of the 3.4-km Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte provincial road in Pavia.

Banias said the President told Executive Secretary Ermita to settle the issue between Gorriceta and 4th district Engr. George Suy on who should handle and what to do with the road project.

Gorriceta, who worked for the release of the P28-million funding of the project, earlier riled at Suy and Rep. Judy Syjuco (2nd district, Iloilo) for trying to “hijack” the project upon knowing that the funds were already available.

The mayor first broached the asphalting of the Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte road to Banias as part of the Panay rehabilitation efforts.

Banias then endorsed the proposal to DPWH regional director Rolando Asis who forwarded the same to their central office.

Gorriceta later offered to Asis that the municipal government undertakes the road concreting project instead of asphalting. The mayor said the arrangement will be spelled out in a memorandum of agreement between the local government and DPWH.

DPWH assistant regional director Joby Cordon informed Gorriceta last September 4 that some P10.5 million for the road project was released to the DPWH 4th Engineering District based in Sta. Barbara, Iloilo. Cordon said the money was released upon the request of Rep. Syjuco.

In her letter to DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane dated September 9, Rep. Syjuco said while they support the concreting of the Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte road, “we object vehemently to the request of the mayor of Pavia to administer the work.”

“Simply just like the rest of us, the town should limit its affairs to local governance and should not be in the construction business of national government public projects. The DPWH is the sole agency for public projects which it (sic) may itself administer or bid out to qualified contractors. The town is not a business entity that can undertake the business of national government public works construction,” Syjuco said.

Gorriceta said he was surprised when Suy informed him last September 5 that the project was awarded to Patrila Construction Co. through negotiated contract.

Suy, according to Gorriceta, said the scope of work is “repair and restoration” by filling the road with dakal-dakal (sand and gravel), not asphalting nor concreting because they will just “restore” the gravel road to its original form.

The mayor said he is equally surprised by Syjuco’s sudden interest in the project “when before they said they don’t want to touch provincial road projects.”

“Why the sudden interest (in the project)? Before, then Congressman Augusto Syjuco said they don’t want to fund provincial roads because it is the work of the provincial government. But when they learned that there are available funds for the Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte road, they intervened,” Gorriceta said.

Suy denied Gorriceta’s claim saying the mayor misunderstood him. He said they have yet to award the project to any contractor and that the P10.5 million is still intact.

Suy’s denial prompted Gorriceta to call the latter a “liar” over live radio interviews the past days.

Suy said they will still evaluate the capabilities of the Pavia municipal government in undertaking the road project.

“If the mayor really wants to administer the project, he can always submit his proposal so we can evaluate it. Or the Iloilo provincial government can also ask the Department of Budget and Management to transfer the fund from the 4th Engineering Office to the Capitol. Bahala na mag-usap ang provincial government at si Mayor Gorriceta,” Suy said.

Asis said that in order for Pavia to handle the project, it must have undertaken a similar road construction with a contract price at least 50 percent of the Pagsangaan-Tigum-Cabugao Norte project.

Asis said the municipal government must have ample technical personnel and equipment for the project.

Gorriceta said he is happy with President Arroyo’s move to intervene in the issue and order the road concreting project.

“At least, we got what we want which is to put up a concrete road. Our people in the area won’t suffer from dust and mud anymore when the project is realized. And most of all, we were able to protect people’s money from falling in wrong hands,” Gorriceta said.

The mayor also thanked Banias and Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, who chairs the Task Force Panay, for bringing the road project issue to the President’s attention.

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