CONSTRUCTION of a two-tube tunnel is ongoing in Davao City. It is part of the 45.5-kilometer Davao City Bypass Road Project. — COURTESY OF DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND HIGHWAYS

By Arjay L. Balinbin, Senior Reporter

THE implementation of projects funded through official development assistance (ODA) will not be disrupted during the election season, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said.

“The Commission on Elections (Comelec) has to be notified and informed. Most of these are ODA-funded projects, so these are actually exempted from the election ban, except for those that are actually in the pipeline where there is no yet financing. What I am referring to are [those] projects that are still yet to be approved by the NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority) Board,” Public Works and Highways Undersecretary Emil K. Sadain said during a virtual briefing on Tuesday.

“Projects with approved loan agreements… can proceed [with] the implementation,” he added.

Under the Omnibus Election Code of the Philippines, the prohibition on releasing, disbursing or expending any public funds for public works does not apply “to ongoing public works projects commenced before the campaign period or similar projects under foreign agreements.”

The Comelec has said the public works ban for the May national elections will run from March 25 to May 8, 2022.

Also exempted from the public works ban, according to the Comelec rules posted on its website, are maintenance of existing and/or completed public works projects and those undertaken by contract through public bidding or by negotiated contract awarded.

Payment for the usual cost of preparation of public works project for working drawings, specifications, bills of materials, and estimates, purchase of materials and equipment, and other procedures preparatory to actual construction, and all incidental expenses for wages of watchmen and other laborers employed for such work in the central office and field storehouses is also exempted.

However, the prohibition does not cover emergency work during a public calamity, but is limited to the restoration of the damaged facility.

The Comelec said department secretaries, chief executives, heads of agencies (including government corporations, government financing institutions and state universities and colleges) with public works projects falling under any of the exceptions should apply for a “certificate of exception.”

NEDA Undersecretary Roderick M. Planta said there are 18 ODA-funded projects on the list submitted by the DPWH, including those projects funded by Japan, South Korea, Asian Development Bank (ADB), China, World Bank and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). These projects are also part of the revised list of infrastructure flagship projects of the current administration.

Eight of the 18 projects that require Comelec certification are Japan ODA-funded, according to the list provided by Mr. Planta to BusinessWorld. These include Davao City Bypass Construction Project, Road Network Development Project in Conflict Affected Areas in Mindanao, Cebu-Mactan Bridge (4th Bridge) and Coastal Road Construction Project, and Metro Manila Priority Bridges Seismic Improvement Project.

The other Japan-funded projects are Pasig-Marikina River Channel Improvement Project Phase IV; Flood Risk Management Project for Cagayan River, Tagoloan River and Imus River; Flood Risk Management Project for Cagayan de Oro River; and Cavite Industrial Area Flood Management Project.

The list also includes four South Korean ODA-funded projects: Samar Pacific Coastal Road Project, Panguil Bay Bridge Project, Integrated Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation Measures in Low-Lying Areas of Pampanga Bay, and consulting services for the Panay-Guimaras-Negros Link bridge.

Also included are three Asian Development Bank-funded projects: Improving Growth Corridors in Mindanao Road Sector Project, Reconstruction and Development Plan for a Greater Marawi, and Metro Manila Bridges Project.

A certificate of exception is also sought for the China-funded Ambal-Simuay River and Rio Grande de Mindanao River Flood Control Projects as well as the consulting services for the Davao River Bridge (Bucana Bridge), which is partly funded through the General Appropriations Act.

Moreover, the DPWH also included the Metro Manila Flood Development Project Phase 1, which is funded by the World Bank and the AIIB.

DPWH’s Mr. Sadain said the department is targeting to finish “about 24” projects this year, with 18 out of the 119 infrastructure flagship projects completed by the end of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s term ends in June.

He said that of the 18 projects, 11 projects have been finished and seven more are being completed, including Flood Risk Management project for Cagayan River, Tagoloan River, and Imus River; Binondo-Intramuros Bridge; Samar Pacific Coastal Road Project;  LRT-2 East Extension; Motor Vehicle Recognition and Enhancement System; Unified Grand Central Station or North Triangle Common Station; and Malitubog-Maridagao Irrigation Project Stage 2.

He also noted that 89 projects out of the 119 on the list “will be carried out in 2023 and beyond.”