Is P7.8-M Nat’l Flagpole overpriced?

Is P7.8 million too much - or a justified cost -to build the National Flagpole of the Philippines?

The new flagpole will replace the current 30-meter (105) high pole now standing at the Rizal Park. To be built will be a towering flagpole 52 meters (150 feet) high.

Earlier, the National Parks and Development Committee explained that the cost of building the flagpole also covers other construction details, such as the new foundation that will hold the structure up to 150 feet, strong enough to with stand the wind force.

An official of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) called the project overpriced.''That flagpole is really overpriced,'' Manila Auxilary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, chairman of the CBCP National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-NASSA), said in an interview. ''That's the fate of many government projects.''

Another church official, Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo, believes that the funds that will be spent in the flagpole is an abuse of money.

''I think the price of that flagpole - P7.8 million - if it's true, is an abuse of money. Did it really all go to the flagpole? Most of it could have been better spent,'' he said.

Other prelates also shared the same sentiment.

''What is the purpose of the structure? What are the priorities of those responsible for it? Are public funds used?'' retired Kalookan Bishop Deogracias Iniguez said.

''I believe there is a way of spending less and getting the work done. I understand why people are angry. I hope competent authority should check this,'' said Cubao Bishop Honesto Ongtioco.

The new mechanized flagpole, which will be called the National Flagpole of the Philippines, will be imported from China.

Price Is Justified

Meanwhile, South Manila District Engineer Mikunug D. Macud explained that the cost of the project is justified considering the materials used and the extent of the construction needed for its foundation. He explained that the foundation will be widened to support the higher and thicker flagpole.

''You may say it is expensive, but when you see the details, the materials [needed], actually it is not,'' he told Manila Bulletin.

He explained that the project, which was proposed in 2011, went through proper public bidding. The DPWH had allotted P8.5 million for the project, but that went down to P7.8 million after the bidding. It was awarded to AKH Construction and Trading Corp.

On the other hand, Engineer Rudolfo Mendoza Jr., a structural engineer for Arup, a multinational professional services firm told Manila Bulletin that the Luneta Flagpole project is grossly overpriced.

He hit earlier statements of the DPWH explaining the high cost was incurred because of a deeper foundation for the support of the flagpole to with stand wind force.

He cited a similar project that required more rigorous specifications for the foundations. He said the cost for the foundation, labor and transport for a two-meter thick, 20- meter high unipole for a billboard only cost P2 million back in 2000.

While the height for his unipole billboard was smaller, he said that the foundations for it needed to be stronger because of the greater wind forces that would be acting upon it. According to him, the Luneta flagpole project would not need a foundation as strong as it would be subject to significantly less wind force compared to the billboard.

He also said that there is no reason for the DPWH to order a flagpole overseas since there are many manufacturing firms that could make a similar pole locally.

Grandspan Development Corporation for example, the firm which made the Lufthansa Technik hangar in NAIA that could house the Airbus A380, the world's largest passenger airliner, could have easily made the flagpole, he said.

AKH Construction and Trading Corporation could not be reached for comment as of press time.

DPWH-National Capital Region Director Reynaldo Tagudando had earlier defended the project, saying the new flagpole soon to rise in front of the Rizal monument is not just ''ordinary,'' but it is thicker and higher.

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