P1.61-trillion worth of delayed DOTR projects flagged amid transport woes

·4 min read
Vehicle traffic builds up as a new MRT-3 Dalian train, ordered by the Department of Transportation (DOTr), runs along EDSA in Manila, Philippines.
In this picture taken 18 December 2020, vehicle traffic builds up as a new MRT-3 Dalian train runs along EDSA in Manila, Philippines. The delay in 14 Department of Transportation (DOTr) projects worth P1.61 trillion has been flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA). (Photo by Richard James Mendoza/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The Commission on Audit (COA) has flagged the Department of Transportation (DOTr) over P128.42 million in additional fees incurred due to setbacks in 14 foreign-assisted projects worth P1.61 trillion.

This is on top of 13 DOTr projects worth P8.664 billion that were also flagged as they were either delayed, terminated, or suspended for various reasons.

In its 2021 audit report on DOTr, the state auditors found common problems in the projects’ implementation such as issues in procurement and financial and technical concerns, leading to prolonged implementation and changes in project cost and scope.

“The prolonged delay of the overhaul inspection and final acceptance of the nine (9) [light rail vehicles] LRVs and the testing, commissioning and acceptance of the other 39 LRVs prevented the agency to maximize the utilization thereof, thereby depriving the riding public of the benefits of a more comfortable transportation system,” the state auditors said.

It added that the “issues encountered in the implementation of the projects should be immediately addressed to prevent further extension of services/project’s completion/implementation period, and consequently incurrence of additional commitment fees/charges in case of extension of the loan validity period.”

The 14 foreign-assisted projects which incurred additional fees are the following:

  • Maritime safety enhancement (P6.25 billion)

  • EDSA greenways (P8.79 billion)

  • Cebu bus rapid transit (P16.31 billion)

  • Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1 south extension (P64.92 billion)

  • LRT Line 2 east extension (P9.51 billion)

  • Second phase of maritime safety capability improvement (P8.02 billion)

  • Metro Manila bus rapid transit (P5.46 billion)

  • Metro Manila subway (P488.48 billion)

  • Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3 rehabilitation (P21.97 billion)

  • New Bohol airport (P8.91 billion)

  • Cebu international container port (P9.19 billion)

  • Air traffic management system (P10.87 billion)

  • North-south commuter railway system (P777.55 billion)

  • Philippine National Railways Bicol project (P175.32 billion)

The report noted that the said projects faced issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the project site’s condition or availability, and design, scope, and technical concerns.

Of the 14 projects, nine underwent restructuring in 2021 namely: the Cebu bus rapid transit, LRT Line 1 south and east extensions, Phases 1 and 2 of a maritime safety program, Metro Manila subway, MRT 3 rehabilitation, Cebu container port, and the north-south railway.

Meanwhile, only four projects were completed as of end-2021 namely: Bohol airport, air traffic management systems, the first phase of the maritime safety program, and the LRT Line 2 east extension.

The commission also noted that two projects namely the Metro Manila bus rapid transit and the Cebu container port had no data on their physical status.

P8.66 billion delayed, suspended, terminated projects

In response to COA’s report, the DOTr management said that it is already pursuing the catch-up implementation for the projects.

State auditors said that issues in the implementation of the 8.66 billion-peso worth of projects, which included the improvement of rail systems, replacement of license plates, and the public utility vehicle (PUV) modernization program, have affected the general public who are currently suffering from transportation woes especially in Metro Manila.

“We emphasize that further extensions will ultimately affect the timely usage and enjoyment and/or availment of an integrated, interoperable and intermodal system that will ensure comfort and convenience to the riding public,” COA said.

The audit team further recommended that the DOTr fast track the continuation of the projects and to coordinate with the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the immediate release of funds for certain projects, as well as to revise the work programs of the said projects.

“Act with urgency to come up with a continuity plan and utilization plan for the noted terminated and idle projects, not only to avoid potential wastage of public funds but primarily to realize the objectives for which these projects were implemented,” the COA said.

Pola Rubio is a news writer and photojournalist covering Philippine politics and events. She regularly follows worldwide and local happenings. She advocates for animal welfare and press freedom. Follow her on Twitter @polarubyo for regular news and cat postings.

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