Press Release
January 14, 2019

on the DPWH budget

Sen. Grace Poe: Thank you Mr. President, Majority Leader. Before I begin a few questions, I would like to thank the gentleman, our good senator, hardworking senator from Cavite for giving way for my interpellation which is just really short; hindi po isang daang tanong, isang tanong lang po pero napakaimportante para po sa ating mga pasahero at dumadaan sa pinaka-busy o traffic na kalsada sa ating bansa, itong EDSA. So, if the good sponsor will allow for some questions just for clarification.

Sen. Legarda: Yes Mr. President.

Poe: I would like to give a background, my question is with regard to the Estrella-Pantaleon bridge or the Rockwell bridge. Ito po ay isa sa tatlong connectors ng Makati at Mandaluyong and it connects Estrella Street and Pantaleon Street in Mandaluyong. MMDA estimates that it covers or it caters to, at the minimum 100,000 vehicles per day. It was inaugurated in 2011 hence ito ang isa sa pinakabatang bridge o youngest bridge in the Metro. It was part of the 19 weather resistant bridges funded previously by the Austrian government; the Rockwell bridge cost P300 million. Ngayon, dapat ito magkakaroon ng closure ng September 2018 but business establishments protested the 30-month closure, it will take 30 months to rehabilitate this bridge. The bridge is one of two China Grant-aids financed by the People's Republic of China thru a bilateral cooperation with the Philippines. According to a Philippine Information Agency release, our good secretary, Secretary Villar, was quoted as saying the construction is part of the Metro Manila logistics network, a traffic management master plan created to decongest Metro Manila by adding 12 additional bridges crossing Pasig River, Marikina River, and Manggahan Floodway. The new design of the Rockwell bridge will double the road size to 4 lanes, 2 per direction but it would nevertheless lead to a 2-lane road in Mandaluyong.

The expansion would cost P1.2 billion. The Chinese company involved is the CCCC Highway Consultant Ltd., Contractor China Road and Bridge Corporation. Now, this particular company, the Washington-based World Bank said it has found evidence of bid-rigging in a Philippine road project involving several Chinese and local construction companies and has decided to bar them from future contracts. The bank said that the investigation by Integrity Vice-President Leonard McCarthy has uncovered a major cartel involving local and international firms. Now, based on the INT's investigation of the NRIMP 1 case, the World Bank's Sanctions Board made up of senior bank officials and external legal experts, decided that the entities had participated in a collusive scheme designed to establish bid prices at an artificial, non-competitive levels. So, there's an 8-year ban of the CRBC, started on the 12th of January 2009 until 12 January 2017. So it's past that but my question is, Mr. President and honorable sponsor, I would like to propound some clarifications regarding the expansion of the Estrella bridge. Bakit po P1.2 billion ang halaga na gagastahin para dito sa expansion na ito na nag-umpisa naman talaga ng P300 million noon, bakit ganoon kalaki?

Legarda: Mr. President the existing bridge exceeded its serviceable capacity, which calls for the widening and the average daily traffic reaches 35,000 when in fact it was designed for 22,000. Hence the addition to the serviceable capacity of the bridge; the continuous increase of traffic volume creates more stress to the structure, this maybe aggravated by the occurrence of high intensity earthquake scenarios and public safety, as you will agree, cannot be compromised over the resulting traffic once it is closed. The new 4-lane Estrella-Pantaleon bridge offers a part to solve Metro Manila's traffic woes. In fact, it passed NEDA board's approval, having an internal economic rate of return of more than 16 percent. This bridge will also feature wider sidewalks on both sides as well as stairs leading to JP Rizal in Makati.

Poe: I understand, eventually there should be really an expansion and rehabilitation. On the other hand, there are other plans within the NEDA that were approved of adding bridges as opposed to rehabilitating one that we already have existing; which also, in my mind, why will it take 30 months, that's quite a long time and it will really inconvenience the public, instead why not consider adding another bridge as opposed to rehabilitating before you've added another bridge.

Legarda: Mr. President, 30 months is really the timeframe for the replacement of the Estrella-Pantaleon bridge and as we said, it's of utmost necessity considering that the traffic crossing the bridge has surpassed its capacity; so it's for safety reasons so it's not just a matter of widening and including sidewalks, it's also a matter of replacing the bridge because the carrying capacity is much much bigger now, the need is much bigger. So to increase the capacity of the bridge and also to increase or improve the safety of the pedestrians, the two-lane bridge will be replaced by a four-lane bridge with a three meter sidewalk. So for all intents and purposes, it's a new bridge, kaya po 30 months.

Poe: Yes but with all due respect to the good sponsor, there are other bridges that are also in need of rehabilitation which are also crucial. This one will greatly impact our drivers. My question is instead of adding another bridge, why couldn't we prioritize adding another bridge? And 30 months is a little less than three years, that's about the time that a new airport in Cebu was completed. This is just one bridge.

Legarda: Mr. President, I have a whole book here of all the bridges that are going to be done; this is actually 12 bridges on the Pasig, Marikina River and Manggahan Floodway and so, the need for the Estrella-Pantaleon is there. Not just to widen the two to four and including wide sidewalks and improving, increasing the carrying capacity and to anticipate the "big one," the big quake. So it's not the only one being funded by over a billion, it's not the only bridge under construction, nauna lang po but there are 12 more bridges, in fact for the Pasig, Marikina River and Manggahan Floodway and many many more Mr. President.

Poe: Okay, so for the "big one", hopefully that never comes, it's good to be able to prepare for it. On the other hand now, also are we saying now that if we don't fix this bridge and something happens, that's the most vulnerable bridge of all the other bridges?

Legarda: Yes Mr. President. In fact, many years ago, even the time of Secretary Singson, I always asked about the possible retrofitting for our bridges and if it was resilient or adaptive to possible earthquakes more than the 7.1 magnitude and he would give us a long list of bridges that needed retrofitting. I believe that this is one of it because the carrying capacity has more than doubled or what so the upgrading, retrofitting is necessary because we know that Mandaluyong is part or is within the West Valley fault. So I don't want to cause fear or chaos or panic but Mandaluyong where it's located is part of the West Valley fault and based on Phivolcs intensity of 8, it's probable, possible that this area could be affected. So this Estrella, naku masama ito sa negosyo, sorry na lang 'yung may development dito, but that's the reason why they are retrofitting, improving and in fact replacing this bridge for safety reasons as well.

Poe: I think that the good sponsor has established that the priority apparently of the DPWH which is safety. I do not wish to have that expounded on anymore. We accept that, safety is paramount. But my other question is this. This is a grant from China, please explain to us, exactly what does a grant mean? What are the conditions attached to this? Are we, if it's a grant, is it a loan grant? A grant that, a loan given to us at a very low interest but we still pay for it? Is it a grant meaning, the one that will give us the grant will dictate who the contractor is?

Legarda: You're correct Mr. President, it is a grant, it's a non-conditional grant, there's no strings attached, ito po ay bigay.

Poe: Bigay so hindi ito utang.

Legarda: Hindi po.

Poe: Walang kapalit ito?

Legarda: 'Yung ngiti at handshake ni Secretary Villar.

Poe: Hindi, I don't think.

Legarda: Nakatingin kasi 'yung nanay kaya 'yun ang sagot ko.

Poe: I think we've been in politics this long. First of all, the contractor they're picking, who decided on that? Why are we selecting the CCCC, bakit sila?

Legarda: Because it's a gift, or a grant from China, and so they decided on the implementers of the projects, with collaboration from the Philippine Government.

Poe: Is the good Secretary aware of the different violations of this construction company?

Legarda: Yes, Mr. President, they were banned by the World Bank for anomalies; CRBC and CCCC are blacklisted for World Bank-funded projects only. However, CRBC was still able to participate in the bidding of DPWH projects under different financing institutions. The sanctions of the World Bank was lifted in January, 2 years ago, 2017 and being a grant project, it was the Chinese government who appointed CRBC as a project contractor per implementation agreement signed in November 2017, after the World Bank lifted the ban.

Poe: Madame sponsor, I believe in second chances, especially when I feel that the intention is really good. And I feel that in this particular case, as whispered to me by a bird, the Philippines will probably be used as a reference for them to be able to gain back their reputation. But there are also some misgivings here but that particular company apparently is the one doing the reclamation in the West Philippine Sea. So wala na ba talagang ibang puwedeng makuha na contractor? I mean, magbibigay rin lang sila, wala nang iba?

Legarda: That's a revelation, Mr. President. But I think that's a different--

Poe: I know it's a different matter, it's just that--

Legarda: It's of grave concern, yes.

Poe: Especially now, I believe in cooperation for as long as we are on equal footing. And I don't believe in any gift with no strings attached. I mean, if it's goodwill on their part, thank you, but I really feel that for them to be able to dictate who is going to do the construction and what particular parameters, might be a little to their advantage. First of all, we don't really know who these workers are that are coming in from their country. I just wish the committee on national defense would really look at this, and would really scrutinize the track record of the company that will be involved, including the personnel that they will be sending here because for sure there are experts from that company who will be staying in the Philippines in the 30-month project period.

Legarda: Mr. President, the experts will be Chinese and because it's a Chinese grant, yes they designated the contractor and perhaps the experts and engineers are Chinese but most of the workers are Filipinos. They are not bringing in Chinese laborers.

Poe: That needs to be clear. I would like to express my objection for this particular project. Alam kong sinabi nila na wala na raw atrasan dito, it will start, but the impact of that will be so great. It happened already when they tried it once I think sometime in September. I was just hoping that they would consider building other bridges first instead of working with something--even if they say this is a safety issue--I think every bridge now that was built during a certain time will always pose certain risks because of the location of our country. But the same company or the same Chinese-funded company, there's another bridge linking Binondo and Intramuros that is being pursued by the DPWH. I hope that a careful study will be done because this could cost the delisting of San Agustin and three other Philippine churches collectively called the Baroque Churches of the Philippines from the list of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites because apparently it will imperil those landmarks. I would like to get word from the Secretary if they have actually studied this and what impact it will have in our walled city in Intramuros.

Legarda: The DPWH is in close coordination with the National Commission on Culture, with the Intramuros Administration, and the bridge, I am told, is 500 meters away from the church.

Poe: I still am not very convinced that we really need, at this time, to rehabilitate that bridge, without other detour routes for our passengers and drivers.

Legarda: I join you in your concern for heritage structures. Again, it says here that the Binondo-Intramuros bridge will not affect any heritage structures during and after construction. And the design of the bridge adopted a split ramp structure at the Intramuros side to avoid the Intendencia Ruins.

Poe: If let's say there's no other way now but to continue with this project, is 30 months really reasonable? Can't we cut that into half?

Legarda: Of course, Mr. President, the DPWH will enjoin the contractors to speed up, but we don't want to compromise safety just to be able to speed up the project. It's best that we peg it at 30 months and we'll see if it can be inaugurated in less time. Mas mahirap po ang mangangako na sasabihin ko sayo, I can tell you, just to finish the interpellation, sige na kalahati inamin ng DPWH, tapos in how many years I'll stand before you and say sorry 30 months pala. 'Yun po ang sinasabi nila, talagang 30 months.

Poe: Ang rerouting plan, mayroon na ba? At saka nag-public hearing ba sila diyan?

Legarda: There's a rerouting plan for any construction of any bridge and there was consultation with MMDA and continuous coordination with all the stakeholders.

Poe: Which particular stakeholders?

Legarda: NCCA, Intramuros Administration.

Poe: No, we're talking about the Estrella-Pantaleon.

Legarda: LGU Makati, we will ask Senator Binay if her sister was consulted. MMDA, LGU Makati and Mandaluyong.

Poe: I have no further questions about this except to register my strong objection, in particular, the Estrella-Pantaleon. That will greatly impact especially now that the rehabilitation plan for other, for example the PITX which is supposed to lessen the number of provincial buses traversing EDSA is not really being implemented properly by the DOTr. And then more buses are still filling our streets in EDSA. And we're going to undergo a project like this. So I feel that we're not really ready and I think that in the coming months, our drivers will really greatly suffer further inconvenience for this. That's all Mr. President.

Legarda: May I just request from the good senator what is your recommendation, if there's anything I could do to help. Do you actually want the project to be scrapped? Do we actually need more inputs from the DPWH? I can probably help convince them if you convince me that it should not proceed. So that we just summarize what you actually want to happen, it doesn't mean just because I'm defending their budget that I actually agree with them all the time. So that my eyes can be opened into all this infrastructure being built and I can help you convince them.

Poe: Thank you, madam sponsor for considering my suggestions. Of course these are wish lists for me. Number one, I am not an expert, but I think that constructing a new bridge is probably more wise at this point than rehabilitating something that's already there. Number two, if we have to go through with this, negotiate a shorter time, I think that's really possible. Three, if we have the choice on the contractor that will do it, why this particular contractor? Why can't we employ our own, or at least have a hand in selecting who's going to perform those rehabilitation projects. And number four, I think that we should include more stakeholders in the consultation, that's all.

Legarda: We take note of that Mr. President. But according to the DPWH there's really a need to replace it because the carrying capacity is beyond what it was designed for. From two to four, kailangan po talagang increase-an at pati yung sidewalk na malalawak ay may paakyat.

Poe: 'Yung Guadalupe bridge hindi ba nag-exceed na din 'yun ng capacity? Lahat naman nag-exceed na.

Legarda: That's also being done this year.

Poe: Lalawakan nga ninyo ang bridge na 'yun pero pagbaba naman ng bridge na yun may dalawang lane pa rin. So parang gumawa kayo ng parking lot.

Legarda: Your concern is valid, in fact they're already looking at widening also the roads when you get down from the ramp.

Poe: This does not have anything to do with this department but I am sure that they have some sort of relationship with the DOTr. Maybe the good Secretary can also request the Secretary of the DOTr to please implement the original intent of having terminals outside of Metro Manila so that provincial buses can remain there and then city buses are the only ones traversing EDSA. We have to be able to come up with the fare matrix system but I really feel that there are others with personal intentions why they are not implementing the original intent of having outside terminals. Even the President commended the PITX but Secretary Tugade is not implementing it according to its intentions. Thank you, Madam Sponsor.

Legarda: Thank you, Mr. President.

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