[UPDATED] DPWH in the hot seat for cracks in Bukidnon’s Sayre Highway

MALAYBALAY CITY (Bukidnon News/29 August) The Bukidnon Sangguniang Panlalawigan has censured officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways Regional Office 10 for scores of cracks along the Sayre Highway that traverses the province.

Vice Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. warned DPWH-10 officials, led by Engr. Efren Berba, OIC assistant regional director, of a complaint before the Ombudsman if the department cannot force the contractors of the 2010 highway projects now marred with complaints of alleged substandard quality.

“You have to compel these contractors to repair the projects (and convince us it’s already okay),” an irate Zubiri said during the board’s regular session Wednesday, addressing Berba.

Zubiri ordered Berba to ensure that existing DPWH projects implemented by the regional office should no longer have cracks.

“We might be constrained to have this investigated,” he added, citing the provincial government received the brunt of complaints from the public.

The vice governor cited about 62 cracks, with the highest 26 of them in Bukidnon’s southern area under the DPWH 2nd Engineering district.

Berba, who said he was only in the job for a year and two months, opined that the increase in number of loaded trucks plying the route caused the cracks.

Zubiri lashed at Berba citing that roads in the southern part of the province did not have cracks before even with the heavy load of trucks carrying sugarcane and other agricultural products.

“You should be ashamed to have used that as an excuse,” he added.

Zubiri said he required Bukidnon’s three DPWH district engineers to submit a complete list of road cracks in their area because a concrete road should last for at least 20 years.

Engr. Rey Peter Gille, DPWH district engineer in central Bukidnon also cited the increasing load of traffic in the Sayre Highway, including trucks carrying agriculture products like sugarcane. He cited that since last year, the DPWH has increased the requirement of the pavement’s thickness.

Zubiri said the trucks should not be blamed and asked if the contractors are applying the right mix or if the DPWH was able to monitor properly.

“Are there kickbacks or favoritism there?” he asked citing alleged problems in the qualification of some contractors with bad record in performance.

Berba said DPWH employed prequalification process and post bidding check.

Zubiri asked DPWH to compel the contractors to do repairs within the month of September or face possible complaints before the Ombudsman.

A representative from Ulticon Builders Inc, one of the contractors, said they are already doing repairs. But the representative also cited that the cracks may be due to heavy traffic. But he also admitted that preparation could also be a factor.

Board member Ranulfo Pepito, from Valencia City, suggested that DPWH ask the contractors to base their repair on the new required thickness of 13 inches.

Zubiri asked DPWH officials how come one contractor, identified as Oaminal Construction, was still given projects when they have reported poor performance due to slippage referring to a project in Manolo Fortich.

The firm was invited to the session but no representative showed up Wednesday.

Berba said that is one reason why the DPWH-10 did not accept the project after it was turned over to them. But he could not ascertain if the company also was not paid because of the non-acceptance when asked about it.

He said by rule DPWH does not release full payment  and does not return the 10 percent retention cost.

“If that is so, then how come the (DPWH) regional office was not able to compel the contractor to complete pending projects first before new projects were awarded to them? Zubiri asked citing alleged favoritism.

“What kind of system is that? He added.

Berba denied there was any favoritism but vowed to relay the information and furnish the board with a copy of a report on the matter.

Zubiri asked for a formal communication if indeed the company was paid despite its alleged failure to deliver.

He threatened to inform the DPWH national office about the situation in the regional area.

Zubiri also followed up on the request of the provincial government for the DPWH to provide weigh bridges to ensure compliance of the right weight of trucks passing Bukidnon’s highways. (Walter I. Balane/Bukidnon News)