By Vanne Terrazola
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto urged agencies implementing the government’s “Build, Build, Build” mission to employ more engineers and construction workers to address the delay in infrastructure projects.
Recto called on government agencies to hold job fairs to fill their respective vacancies in engineering and other construction-related positions, which, he said, derails the delivery of the projects under the Duterte administration’s “Build, Build, Build” program.
“The backlog is due to what is called technical deficit. Maraming ahensya ay kulang sa mga taong mangangasiwa sa mga proyekto (Many agencies lack people who would manage and work on these projects),” Recto said.
He pushed particularly the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Education (DepED), Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Department of Health (DOH), which will build P1.5 trillion worth of infrastructure by next year through official development aid and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) ventures.
The DOTr’s mother agency, the Department of Transportation and Communications, had 1,297 reported vacancies last year. Recto noted that the number of personnel was further divided with the creation of the Department of Information and Communications Technology.
The DPWH, meanwhile, had 1,777 vacancies in its approved plantilla of 19,501 personnel, Recto added.
Lack of men, underspending
Recto said this lack of competent personnel who will prepare, approve plans for projects, and supervise their construction, also leads to slow spending. “Underspending is an offshoot of being understaffed…Resulting in an acute constipation of projects,” he said.
He cited, for example, the DepEd which was scored by the Commission on Audit for failing to spend P43 billion out of its P412.4 billion allocated budget in 2016.
Included in the underspending was the failure to utilize P2.2 billion of the P4.9 billion allotted for buildings and equipment of the technical-vocational track in the senior high. This, Recto said, “crippled a major aim to produce jobs-ready graduates.”
Recto said DepEd as a major infrastructure builder has tens of thousands of job orders for classrooms every year. For 2017, the agency was expected to build 47,492 new classrooms and will be given money to build 47,000 classrooms in 2018.
The same is true with the DOH, which has been getting billions of pesos in funds a year to build more hospitals, rural health units, and barangay clinics, under the multi-year Health Facilities Enhancement Project (HFEP). This year, the DOH has a budget of P24.2 billion for HFEP, and P29 billion is proposed for next year.
“The problem with DepEd is that it lacks engineers. That’s why it takes one to two years to deliver the classrooms. The same to DOH whose bulk of employees are health workers, and less of builders,” Recto lamented.
Recto said that of the total P1.17 trillion budget for capital outlays, only P823 billion was utilized while P352 billion was not used.
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