Espinoza: An embarrassment!

Elias L. Espinoza
·3 min read

The flooding of the underpass in Mambaling, Cebu City every time it rains, even for 30 minutes, is expected because of the lack of the appropriate drainage. This underpass project implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is not only an embarrassment to the Duterte administration but also of the engineering profession.

DPWH 7 Director Edgar B. Tabacon admitted, albeit he was not apologetic, that the flooding problem in this P638 million underpass in Mambaling during rainy days is due to the lack of drainage. According to Tabacon, the drainage work was put off because of the difficulty in acquiring the road right-of-way (RROW). Understandably, a drainage in every road project is part of the plan.

The question now that hangs is why the DPWH pushed through with the underpass project when they knew they could not widen the side roads and build the drainage because of problems in RROW acquisition. I suppose funding was not a problem because there was an appropriation of P16.7 million for the drainage and payment for acquisition of the RROW. And where did the P16.7 million go? Of course, not into their pockets.

This underpass had become the butt of jokes every time it’s filled with rainwater even after a 30-minute rain. Computer savvies posted the photos of the underpass as a swimming pool where children were swimming and on Good Friday, this underpass looked like a pool of “binignit,” a staple food for those who are fasting. What a shame!

Mayor Edgardo Labella had to act on the flooding problem that causes gargantuan traffic because the underpass is in Cebu City, but funded by the National Government and managed by the DPWH. Labella wrote DPWH Secretary Mark Villar to send experts and to check into the “functionality and structural integrity” of this underpass. Well, I don’t want to preempt the secretary, but I already have in mind what would be his possible response.

During the construction of this underpass years back, motorists and travelers had to endure the traffic gridlock caused by the lack of the proper diversion routes since this part and length of the road was closed to traffic. The DWPH 7 and Cebu City Government officials had verbal exchanges, blaming each other for the traffic fiasco. Imagine, from Talamban it would take more than an hour to reach Pardo.

I remember and I agree with Mayor Labella that this project was supposed to include underground concrete cisterns to serve as storage for floodwater in case of rains. As to why it was ditched, only the DPWH officials could explain. Never mind the mayor, this underpass is an instant cistern when it rains.

Before this underpass project was implemented, there were arguments and suggestions that a flyover was a better option and faster to build, just like the flyover in the other intersections of the city. But someone said that since the budget for the underpass had already been approved then it had to proceed, come what may.

I would like to pose this question for my fellow lawyers to react. Could the project proponents be held legally and administratively liable in pursuing this underpass project, which is substandard and since they knew beforehand that they had a problem in acquiring the RROW for the drainage?

On the other hand, may I ask the Cebu City officials what is the City’s basis in the registration of senior citizens for the Covid-19 vaccination. Is it the voting residence? Some senior citizens complained on social media that nobody has reached them for the vaccine registration.