Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday questioned the spending priorities of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) as reflected by its 2023 budget proposal, saying the agency seems to be more concerned about maintaining existing infrastructure than building new roads and bridges.
During the Senate plenary debate on the 2023 budget of the DPWH, Cayetano pointed out that the amount of public money to be spent on maintenance and repair works – at around one-third of the agency’s proposed P737.36 billion budget – is inconsistent with the administration’s ‘Build Better More’ infrastructure push.
“Kung ia-add ko lahat ng individual items para sa maintenance at rehabilitation, mahigit P200 billion na. So it’s like almost a third of the budget. This is not a ‘Build Better More’ budget, this is a ‘Maintenance Pa More’ budget,” the senator said.
According to Cayetano, the money allocated for the DPWH’s asset preservation program worth P90.48 billion for 2023 and its P166.22 billion flood management program dwarf the funds intended for the public works agency’s network development and bridge building programs at around P140 billion.
“Parang sa maintenance napupunta y’ung 2023 budget. At saka y’ung trend, imbes na to build new networks and to have a program to expand infrastructure, parang sa flood control ‘tsaka sa maintenance nako-concentrate yung pera,” he said, noting that these budget priorities have become more pronounced over the last two years.
Cayetano added that going through the 2023 budget of the DPWH line-by-line, any observer could see many smaller items within the agency’s larger budget categories that are intended for maintenance, repair, and retrofitting works.
“Is there something wrong with the kind of public works we do? Kasi kung parang one is to one na y’ung bago sa pine-preserve mo, ibig sabihin, either hindi maganda y’ung pagkagawa or napakaluma na,” he said.
The senator reminded DPWH officials to stick to the current administration’s expansionary program for infrastructure development. Otherwise they should inform the President that the agency will have to prioritize repair and maintenance.
“You’ll have to inform the President, because umaasa siya na ‘Build Better More’ ito, hindi ‘Better Better Maintenance’ ‘di ba,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano urged the DPWH to lean more heavily towards building new infrastructure especially in regions of the country which sorely need better roads and bridges.
“Sure we need to maintain roads but we also need a lot of new roads especially going to the tourist sites,” he said.