Press Release
November 6, 2009


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today pressed for the devolution of public works to local government units (LGUs) to prevent delays in the construction or repair of public infrastructures which could be detrimental to the welfare of local communities.

Pimentel renewed the proposal in the wake of the inability of the Department of Public Works and Highways to comply with its duty to repair and reconstruct roads, bridges, irrigation canals, anti-flood dikes and other public infrastructures damaged or destroyed in Metro Manila and the provinces damaged or destroyed by three recent typhoons (Ondoy, Pepeng and Santi).

"The governors and mayors of several LGUs have sent urgent appeals to Malacanang and the DPWH for the immediate repair of the damaged public facilities. But in many instances, the DPWH has not acted on their appeals or has been very slow in doing repair and reconstruction work," he said.

Worse, acting DPWH Secretary Victor Domingo reported that the department has run out of funds for such purposes, the senator added.

Pimentel also decried that rivers, drainage canals and esteros in Metro Manila are now heavily clogged with plastic bottles, wood, mud and all kinds of trash and wastes but nothing is being done to remove them and to dredge the heavily silted waterways.

Such deplorable situation would be avoided if public works are delegated to the LGUs, he said, as this would enable them to act with dispatch in repairing the damaged roads or bridges and clean up the clogged waterways.

Pimentel said this would likewise ensure the efficient and prudent utilization of the public works funds unlike at present wherein the authority for their release and disbursement is highly centralized.

"It's about time we put an end to an intolerable situation wherein local government officials, without any authority over public works, stand helpless in the face of devastation of roads and other public facilities caused by calamities, paralyzing economic activities and hampering the movements of people," he said.

Pimentel said it makes a lot of sense to let the LGUs absorb most, if not all, of the public works function, as he pointed out that the DPWH heavily relies on private engineering firms for the construction or repair of infrastructure facilities.

The senator from Mindanao had proposed the devolution of public works to the LGUs as early as 200l as part of omnibus amendments to that Local Government Code (Republic Act 7160).

As embodied in the Pimentel bill, the funds for public works and the actual construction of infrastructure projects will be handled directly by the LGUs and not anymore by the DPWH.

The barangays will take over the construction, repair and rehabilitation of barangay roads, bridges and water supply system. At present, the barangays are responsible only for the maintenance of these facilities.

Municipalities will take over infrastructure facilities including not only those funded out of municipal funds (which is already being done) but also those funded by the national government and the provincial government. They will also undertake the construction of wharves, reclamation projects and the acquisition of lands for tourism purpose.

On the other hand, the provinces under the Pimentel bill, will take over public works projects such as roads, bridges and ports. Including those that are funded by the central government budget.

Pimentel also observed that many wealthy LGUs have strengthened their capability for implementing public works projects by beefing up their pool of heavy equipment which is even more impressive than what is available at the DPWH field offices.

In fact, he said the common practice of the DPWH is to farm out infrastructure projects to private engineering firms despite the department's huge pool of manpower and equipment.

"If that s the way the DPWH discharges its functions, it may be better to abolish the DPWH and let its functions be transferred to the local government Pimentel said.

The veteran legislator said local chief executives have long clamored for the devolution of public works functions as well as the increase in the share of LGUs in the national tax collection from the present 40 percent to 50 percent.

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