By Ali G. Macabalang
In pursuit of bringing equitable state care and attention to southern Philippines, the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) has included in its multi-faceted functions a thrust on forming local bodies to oversee implementation of infrastructure projects, especially those suffering from unexpected delays.
The new thrust will be applied in all provinces in Mindanao, starting with Davao del Norte after Gov. Edwin Jubahib and project engineers of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) have agreed lately to join efforts in pushing for speedier realization of the P20-billion Davao City-Samal Island Bridge, according to MinDA Public Affairs and Communications Division head Dr. Adrian Tamayo.
As this developed, stakeholders urged the MinDA leadership to include in the new thrust the five provinces and three cities of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) where several infrastructure projects, especially those initiated by past administrations, have remained uncompleted and pawned heated debates.
MinDA Chairman Manny Piñol hosted and presided over the meeting between Gov. Jubahib and DPWH technical people to organize the Infrastructure Monitoring and Advisory Group (IMAG) to oversee the implementation of major infrastructure projects, including the P20-B Bridge that “had suffered implementation delays,” Tamayo said.
In his Facebook post, Sec. Piñol said the DPWH was represented in the meeting by Marlon Galerio, project manager of the Davao-Samal Bridge, Joweto Tulaylay, Project Engineer and two other young engineers.
He said the Davao del Norte IMAG will be the “first of the monitoring groups to be organized in the different provinces of Mindanao to monitor the progress and development of key infrastructure projects, many of which suffered delays.”
Gov. Jubahib will head the IMAG for his province, with different state agencies, especially the DPWH, the religious sector, mayors of constituent-towns hosting project, and civic organizations as members, Piñol said, citing the vitality of “engaging stakeholders” in swifter implementation of government infrastructure projects.
“Institutionalized by the then Mindanao Economic and Development Council (MEDCO) in the mid-1990s, I previously chaired the IMAG for the whole of Mindanao when I was president of the Mindanao Governors and Mayors league in 1998,” said the MinDA chief, who was once elected three-term governor and one-term mayor in North Cotabato.
“The IMAG proved to be a very effective mechanism in giving stakeholders greater involvement in the monitoring of major infrastructure projects by conducting quarterly meetings where members, especially construction companies, report on the progress of the project,” Piñol said.
He recalled that when he was IMAG chairman,” a local contractor who was always behind in project implementation was banned by the DPWH on the recommendation of the IMAG.”
After the organization of the IMAG for Davao del Norte, Piñol said, MinDA will” move to other provinces and convene the same monitors, especially in the Panguil Bay Bridge construction, the Alicia-Olutanga Road in Zambo Sibugay and other areas.”
“With 14 months left in the Presidency of Rody Duterte, MinDA is closely supervising the completion of major projects in Mindanao,” he pointed out.
MinDA conducted in Davao City on February 9 the first episode of “Mindanao Speaks Up Forum,” during which many heads of departments in the infrastructure, energy and agriculture development clusters reported virtually on current projects of their respective agencies in Mindanao.
Sec. Piñol presided over the forum and disclosed that three cabinet departments have allocated their total budgets “only one percent” for the whole Mindanao – something he lamented as inappropriate for the island region being the “food basket” for the entire country.
He also demanded a detailed “clarification” on the report of a DPWH official, who reported at the forum that of the 26,000-kilometer roads in Mindanao, over 9,000 kilometers have been fully concreted.
Piñol expressed quandary on the report, asking the DPWH official to provide specific locations of the concreted highways.
President Duterte had once announced designating Sec. Pinol to be Palace “point man” for the BARMM territory, but some skeptics had raised concerns over such designation. The MinDA chair has since embarked on just inviting constituent leaders in BARMM to MinDA undertakings and thrust, ostensibly respecting the sense of “autonomy” accorded the region.
At the “Mindanao Speaks Up Forum,” an official of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) reported a number of ports’ development and expansion projects in Mindanao. But no part of BARMM was mentioned as host to ports building or rehabilitation.
Spectators from BARMM, including representatives of chambers of commerce and civil society groups, said MinDA should intensify guidance to the autonomous government’s operations, ensure the region’s inclusion in initiatives meant to acquire and expedite projects implementation.
Several infrastructure and socio-economic projects initiated by the defunct Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have not been completed, and stakeholders appeared pinning the blame on the BARMM governance. AGM