The concerned groups and individuals said there should have been transparency in the controversial P50-million Yawa River dredging project implementation in line with the “Matuwid na daan” policy of President Benigno S. Aquino III.
Incidentally, dredging projects have been selectively banned in the Bicol Region because of their highly scandalous implementation in the past, which Rep. Fernando Gonzalez (Albay, 3rd District) had exposed as having only 25-percent accomplishments and with no dredged debris taken out of the river but just dumped at both sides of the river.
Gonzales was referring to the multi-billion-peso Mayon dredging project of the DPWH during his term as Albay governor (2004–2007), whose implementation the Church had equally assailed.
An estimated hectare-size at three-meter high area would be needed to accommodate the sand and boulders from the Yawa dredging project and various sectors are curious and are looking for the dredged debris, said Romeo Esplana, recently retired DPWH Bicol public affairs chief.
Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda confirmed in a text message that dredging is temporarily banned in the province, when asked over the P100-million Yawa dredging project being implemented during the election campaign period.
Reportedly facilitated by Senator Chiz Escudero, the project’s records at DPWH showed only P50 million had been implemented. It was started last January and is due for completion in August this year.
District engineer Walter Lubiano of the Albay 2nd District Engineering Office said there were designated areas where the dredged volcanic debris were disposed by the contractor, WCS Construction, adding that Legazpi City Mayor Noel Rosal had strictly monitored the materials’ disposal.
Rosal, however, said he recommended only few barangays where part of the dredged debris could be disposed.
He claimed he was not aware of the accounting of the disposal.
“Had I been consulted about the project ahead, I would not even allow Yawa to be the dredging site because of its controversy, adding that there are many rivers worth dredging,” the mayor said.
Yawa River has been the subject of multimillion-peso dredging funds that had gone for nothing, said Esplana, an advocate of manpower utilization in the dredging project as against the use of heavy equipment.
He said the use of manpower could give income to thousands of villagers in the dredging area. Esplana said the usual dredging practice was merely to deepen the river and dumping the debris on both sides of the river, which is highly irregular.
He said then governor Gonzalez proposed that no dredging project should be implemented without taking the debris out of the river. Earlier published report quoted businessman Carlos Loria as the contractor of the project, borrowing the license of WCS Construction.
A political follower of Escudero, Loria, who owns Makapa Construction, said he won the contract in an honest and fair bidding with 60 percent of the contract for dredging and 40 percent for the installation of sheet piles. He said the fund was facilitated by Escudero.
Lubiano and his assistant district engineer, Vicente Miraballes, however, denied they handled the Yawa dredging project, when contacted by the media through Lucy Castañeda, of the DPWH region’s public affairs office.
In its posted billboard near the Yawa River as required by the Commission on Audit, the DPWH did not state the true name of the project, except for the words “construction and improvement of Yawa River.”
The cost of the project was not also provided, only the period of implementation, and that the source of funds was stated as “regular” not a Priority Development Assistance Fund or any form of pork barrel.
A COA auditor said the billboard was irregular, being incomplete.
The Diocese of Legazpi’s Social Action Center (SAC) admitted it failed to monitor the disposal of the dredged debris and does know where the huge volume of the dredged materials were dumped, if ever these were taken out of the river as part of the contract.
SAC director Jojie Orbase said they were tied up during the election campaign when the project was fully implemented.
Source: PNA, July 1, 2013