By Joseph B.A. Marzan
With the current uncertainty looming over the repair of the P680-million Ungka Flyover, a member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Iloilo recently expressed his belief that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) might be hiding something.
Board Member Matt Palabrica (3rd district), a member of the provincial board’s infrastructure committee, told Aksyon Radyo Iloilo on Wednesday that he suspected that the DPWH-Region 6 was hiding something, owing to its purported lack of transparency on matters relative to the flyover.
He pointed to DPWH-6 Assistant Regional Director Jose Al Fruto’s “open-ended” letter dated Nov 28, 2022 and addressed to the SP which he said, “had no commitment nor progress report.”
The letter only told the SP that the DPWH regional office is still waiting for the design from their technical team.
“We are expecting a firm commitment from [DPWH-Region 6]. Right now, we don’t know what really the root cause of the problem is, and what we are just asking for is transparency. But I do believe that they are hiding something here, and that which I don’t know,” he said in a radio interview.
On Thursday, he explained to Daily Guardian that his suspicion stemmed from his knowledge that the DPWH, as the country’s chief infrastructure and engineering body, already had the know-how on these concerns.
“Why won’t they reveal the exact problems? I’m not satisfied that there was a difference in design because why would the DPWH [need to determine] any differences in design? With their background and schooling, with some designers even being sent abroad to study, here comes [suddenly] a question on the design? For me, there is something fishy there,” Palabrica said in a phone interview.
Palabrica likewise confirmed to Daily Guardian that Fruto and other DPWH-6 officials promised that the Ungka flyover concerns would be fully addressed by Christmas time.
This was similar to the commitment expressed by the DPWH-6’s second-in-command when he met with the Iloilo City Council’s infrastructure committee last October 7.
But alas, the agency was not able to comply with their own pronouncements with the local officials.
“We have already requested DPWH-6 to explain, and they have committed to give a periodic report to Sangguniang Panlalawigan through [infrastructure committee chairperson] Board Member Rolly Distura. Their submissions are getting delayed, and if [Distura] didn’t get mad then the report wouldn’t have come [to us]. That is why [Distura] gave the privilege speech to elevate the matter to DPWH Secretary [Manuel Bonoan],” he said.
“We had the committee hearing on October 2, so we were expecting [the report] to come in by November 2. It’s already December, and they just submitted [on November 28], so there is irregularity in their reporting. Their commitment was to be transparent with the [provincial board] on any development in their work,” he added.
Palabrica said the finalized text of the resolution is expected to come out today, Dec 2, to be sent to DPWH Secretary Manuel Bonoan and Representatives Julienne Baronda (Iloilo City-Lone) and Michael Gorriceta (Iloilo province-2nd).
It is also expected to be sent to other members of the House of Representatives, including Iloilo province Reps. Janette Garin (1st dist.), Lorenz Defensor (3rd dist.), and Raul Tupas (5th dist.), Ilonggo party-list Reps. James Ang (Uswag Ilonggo) and Lex Anthony Colada (AAMBIS-OWA), House Public Works and Highways committee chair Rep. Romeo Momo (Surigao del Sur-1st), and Senate Public Works committee chairperson Ramon Revilla Jr.
Daily Guardian has reached out to Fruto for comment on the resolution, but he has yet to respond as of this writing.
The top chief executives of the city and province of Iloilo seemed to be in line with the resolution of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, expressing their sides on Thursday.
Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas shared his Dec 1 letter addressed to Bonoan, inquiring on the latest updates not only on the Ungka Flyover and another project in Pavia town, the Aganan Flyover.
Treñas highlighted that traffic to the city is expected to increase because of the Christmas season as well as the return of face-to-face classes at all levels.
“With the volume of vehicular traffic aggravated by the Christmas season and resumption of face-to-face classes it is highly anticipated that repairs are made around the clock to expedite the bridge reopening – all without compromising public safety,” the mayor said in his letter.
In his regular press conference Thursday, Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. expressed that he would also “make a representation” to Bonoan to clarify the remaining issues with the flyovers.
The governor emphasized that he wouldn’t give comments outright on the situation, especially that the exact problems with the flyovers have not yet been pointed out, citing his own experience as a former third district representative.
“It is important that we point out the exact problem and the solutions. In my experience with horizontal constructions, many of our national highways stand on soft soil. That is just the nature of the soil. I don’t want to speculate on the problems [in Ungka and Aganan], just that in the 3rd district highways when I was a congressman, we have sinkholes there which we still don’t have solutions until now. I don’t know if it’s the same, but if it is, then we have a bigger problem,” the governor said.