Lawmaker asks Duterte, Sec. Villar to probe ‘defective’ bridge project in GenSan

General Santos City. Photo courtesy of General Santos CIty FB page

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 13 November) – South Cotabato first district Rep. Shirlyn Bañas-Nograles has asked President Rodrigo Duterte and Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar to look into possible irregularities in the implementation of an alleged “defective” PHP200 million bridge project here.

Nograles called for the investigation as she questioned the release of additional funding by the DPWH central office for the rehabilitation of the Upper Silway Bridge along Albert Morrow Boulevard, only two years after its completion.

Citing a recent site visit, she said it appears that the bridge, which was built from 2016 to 2018 by private contractor Grace Construction Corp., is not just undergoing repair or rehabilitation but a “reconstruction.”

She said the girder of the bridge was totally taken out and only the columns have so far remained.

The bridge’s rehabilitation, which is implemented by DPWH-Region 12 and commissioned to Abu Construction, has an allocation of around PHP88 million.

“But why are we building another bridge when it was only completed two years ago? It’s a total waste of effort and PHP200 million in people’s money. So it should be investigated,” she said in a radio interview.

Nograles, who already reported the matter officially to the President and Sec. Villar, raised doubts over the DPWH regional office’s earlier report that the bridge suffered major damages due to the series of major earthquakes that affected the area from the last quarter of 2019 until early this year.

She said they were puzzled with the reason since other bridges in the area remain intact following the earthquakes.

The official recalled that the agency already started re-routing passing vehicles even before the earthquake occurred, indicating that there had been a problem with the bridge’s structural integrity.

She said they observed that the structure appeared to have sagged early on and showed that the quality work was problematic.

Nograles said the DPWH should have held the contractor accountable as the project should still be covered by warranty.

Based on the implementing rules and regulation of Republic Act of 9184, she said the warranty against structural defects and failures of projects “shall be 15 years from final acceptance except those occasioned by force majeure.”

“We are closely watching the developments of this project because there is another supplemental allocation of PHP193 million intended for its expansion and we don’t want that to go to waste,” she said.

Engr. Rey Francisco, head of the South Cotabato 2nd District Engineering Office, maintained the bridge mainly suffered significant damages due to the previous earthquakes and the passing of overloaded vehicles.

“Our (DPWH) regional office made the right decision to pursue the bridge’s rehabilitation to preempt possible untoward accidents,” he said in a separate radio interview.

He said the project’s structural defects were not covered by warranty since they were due to usage and the impact of the earthquakes.

Francisco said they had made proper damage assessments on the structure immediately after the occurrence of the quakes and reported them to their regional and central offices. (MindaNews)