Mindanao roads: Better access to farms needed

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momo
Undersecretary Romeo Momo, DPWH

The Philippine Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has dedicated over a quarter of its 2013 budget to infrastructure development on the island of Mindanao, the agricultural hub of the country. Undersecretary Romeo Momo, charged with overseeing Mindanao at the DPWH, told Inside Investor about the challenges local farmers face with poor rural roads and the first long-term projects issued to private contractors.

What is the most critical issue facing the development of infrastructure by the public sector in Mindanao?

Connectivity to agricultural areas is a large issue. Mindanao’s rich agricultural provinces, such as North Cotabato and South Cotabato, need good road connectivity between production areas and the market. Unfortunately, right now the DWPH’s mandate is to construct national roads to the market, whereas the people need connections from the national roads to production centers.

“Mindanao’s rich agricultural provinces, such as North Cotabato and South Cotabato, need good road connectivity between production areas and the market.”

To address this issue, there is a convergence programme in place where project implementation will be handled by the DPWH, Department of Agriculture (DOA) and the Department of Agriculture Reform. Through this programme there is a convergence of spending between these agencies to allocate funding for farm-to-market roads. The programme began last year and is in the regulatory budget for 2014.

What other challenges does your department face with roads and highways in Mindanao?

The national roads in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are not on par with those of others in Mindanao. Our current mandate is to focus on the improvement of existing national highways, and there are funds from the DOA to address the farmer roads. This is a priority for the DOA and Department of Agriculture Reform. By the end of 2016, these priority roads will be in place for farmers, and of course there will be a focus with the support of private investment.

Recently in 2013, government policy shifted the construction funds for government hospital clinics from the Department of Health to the DPWH, but we are only mandated to advise construction. In general, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is delegated with the construction of small buildings, public health facilities and ports. Many ports are still being by constructed the DOTC; only a few years ago did the DPWH start implementing these projects.

How much of the national budget for infrastructure did Mindanao get this year?

For 2013, out of the total operation budget allocated to the DPWH, 27.6 billion pesos, or 25.54 per cent of the total, was set aside for Mindanao.

What lesson has the DPWH learned from Typhoon Pablo, which occurred in late 2012, and what safeguards have been implemented to mitigate such destruction in the future?

The DPWH has redesigned school buildings structures. Previously, these buildings could only withstand a wind load of 180 kilometres per hour, but we have increased this to 250 kilometres per hour. The DPWH has already redesigned bridges to increase their length and flood levels; for drainage systems, an increase from a 10-15 year return period to a more than 50 year return period has been made, meaning that the capacity of the system, including concrete, piping and reservoirs, has grown.

What is your level of involvement in the DPWH-ARMM?

They are separate and distinct from us. The central government will give them a separate allocation every year; once released, it’s in their hands. However, we still implement projects in that region (which includes Cotabato). This is done through the Transition Investment Support Program (TISP), which is a support programme for Mindanao. There is currently an allocation for more than 3 billion pesos ($69 million).

How does the DPWH safeguard assets in ARMM?

There is strong responsibility among agencies in terms of projects. Anything released to us in ARMM is supervised by us, including technical supervision. We follow our specifications and safeguards to ensure the structure passes our design criteria and that each design is counterchecked to make sure that everything is compliant.

What kind of PPP programme does Mindanao run through your department?

We have an agreement with the World Bank and Philippine government that allows private contractors to do long-term maintenance. There are currently projects in Surigao del Norte, Augustan del Norte and Zamboanga del Norte that are in such contracts. This marks the first time that we are allowing private contractors to do long-term maintenance with the government in Mindanao.

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

Undersecretary Romeo Momo, DPWH

The Philippine Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has dedicated over a quarter of its 2013 budget to infrastructure development on the island of Mindanao, the agricultural hub of the country. Undersecretary Romeo Momo, charged with overseeing Mindanao at the DPWH, told Inside Investor about the challenges local farmers face with poor rural roads and the first long-term projects issued to private contractors.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

momo
Undersecretary Romeo Momo, DPWH

The Philippine Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has dedicated over a quarter of its 2013 budget to infrastructure development on the island of Mindanao, the agricultural hub of the country. Undersecretary Romeo Momo, charged with overseeing Mindanao at the DPWH, told Inside Investor about the challenges local farmers face with poor rural roads and the first long-term projects issued to private contractors.

What is the most critical issue facing the development of infrastructure by the public sector in Mindanao?

Connectivity to agricultural areas is a large issue. Mindanao’s rich agricultural provinces, such as North Cotabato and South Cotabato, need good road connectivity between production areas and the market. Unfortunately, right now the DWPH’s mandate is to construct national roads to the market, whereas the people need connections from the national roads to production centers.

“Mindanao’s rich agricultural provinces, such as North Cotabato and South Cotabato, need good road connectivity between production areas and the market.”

To address this issue, there is a convergence programme in place where project implementation will be handled by the DPWH, Department of Agriculture (DOA) and the Department of Agriculture Reform. Through this programme there is a convergence of spending between these agencies to allocate funding for farm-to-market roads. The programme began last year and is in the regulatory budget for 2014.

What other challenges does your department face with roads and highways in Mindanao?

The national roads in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are not on par with those of others in Mindanao. Our current mandate is to focus on the improvement of existing national highways, and there are funds from the DOA to address the farmer roads. This is a priority for the DOA and Department of Agriculture Reform. By the end of 2016, these priority roads will be in place for farmers, and of course there will be a focus with the support of private investment.

Recently in 2013, government policy shifted the construction funds for government hospital clinics from the Department of Health to the DPWH, but we are only mandated to advise construction. In general, the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is delegated with the construction of small buildings, public health facilities and ports. Many ports are still being by constructed the DOTC; only a few years ago did the DPWH start implementing these projects.

How much of the national budget for infrastructure did Mindanao get this year?

For 2013, out of the total operation budget allocated to the DPWH, 27.6 billion pesos, or 25.54 per cent of the total, was set aside for Mindanao.

What lesson has the DPWH learned from Typhoon Pablo, which occurred in late 2012, and what safeguards have been implemented to mitigate such destruction in the future?

The DPWH has redesigned school buildings structures. Previously, these buildings could only withstand a wind load of 180 kilometres per hour, but we have increased this to 250 kilometres per hour. The DPWH has already redesigned bridges to increase their length and flood levels; for drainage systems, an increase from a 10-15 year return period to a more than 50 year return period has been made, meaning that the capacity of the system, including concrete, piping and reservoirs, has grown.

What is your level of involvement in the DPWH-ARMM?

They are separate and distinct from us. The central government will give them a separate allocation every year; once released, it’s in their hands. However, we still implement projects in that region (which includes Cotabato). This is done through the Transition Investment Support Program (TISP), which is a support programme for Mindanao. There is currently an allocation for more than 3 billion pesos ($69 million).

How does the DPWH safeguard assets in ARMM?

There is strong responsibility among agencies in terms of projects. Anything released to us in ARMM is supervised by us, including technical supervision. We follow our specifications and safeguards to ensure the structure passes our design criteria and that each design is counterchecked to make sure that everything is compliant.

What kind of PPP programme does Mindanao run through your department?

We have an agreement with the World Bank and Philippine government that allows private contractors to do long-term maintenance. There are currently projects in Surigao del Norte, Augustan del Norte and Zamboanga del Norte that are in such contracts. This marks the first time that we are allowing private contractors to do long-term maintenance with the government in Mindanao.

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