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The leadership of Mark Villar

President Rodrigo Duterte’s marching orders to his “Build, Build, Build” team was clear from the onset: Finish as many projects as possible at the soonest possible time. Whoever gets the credit is none of our business.

I recall when senatorial aspirant and former Secretary Mark Villar was appointed to lead the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), he took the responsibility with a firm resolve. I remember him saying that he wants to end his stint as czar of “Build, Build, Build” knowing that he gave it everything he got.

When he started institutionalizing reforms in DPWH, there were many challenges — from ghost projects, delays, right-of-way issues and death threats. But we knew that if we are to make genuine change in the way government infrastructure is built, then reforms are a prerequisite.

On the first six months of his stint, Secretary Mark adopted drone and satellite technology for monitoring of DPWH projects and eliminated ghost projects via a geotagging system.

The DPWH used a technology called the Infra-Track App, which has a built-in geotagging feature that plots photos inputted in the system for monitoring in the exact geographic coordinates where they were taken. The system automatically alerts key officials of DPWH when a project is misreported from a different location. This way, Secretary Mark ensured that there were no ghost projects in the DPWH.

When the system detects a five percent negative slippage, the contractor is given a warning and must submit a “catch-up program” to eliminate the delay. If the contractor incurs a delay of at least 15 percent, he will be given a final warning and must submit a more detailed program of activities with weekly physical targets. Said contractor will also be pre-disqualified from future biddings until after the negative slippage has been reduced to less than 15 percent.

Secretary Mark also resolved the decades-old problem of right-of-way (ROW) acquisition, which has hounded many infrastructure projects. For instance, it took six presidents to complete Radial Road 10. But in the first six months of the Duterte administration, the ROW issues were resolved in coordination with the local government units. Now, travel time between Manila and Navotas City was reduced from one hour to 30 minutes.

How did Secretary Mark do it? He issued Department Order No. 65 (series of 2016), which decentralized the ROW acquisition functions and delegated the duties and responsibilities to the various implementing units. Before, regional offices were dependent only on legal support provided by the Central Office. The Infrastructure Right-of-Way (IROW) Committees that causes delay on resolving ROW claims were abolished. Outdated and misplaced requirements were removed, thereby streamlining the ROW documentary requirements on ROW payment and processing.

Secretary Mark also implemented reforms in public procurement processes, such as the issuance of Department Order No. 127 (series of 2018) on the strict application of R.A. 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act) in the conduct of post-qualification of bidders with delayed on-going contracts with the DPWH.

Because of these reforms that Secretary Mark introduced, the DPWH, in the span of five years, was able to complete a total of 29,264 kilometers of roads, 5,950 bridges, 11,340 flood control projects, 150,149 classrooms, 222 evacuation centers, 133 Tatag ng Imprastraktura Para sa Kapayapaan at Seguridad (TIKAS) projects, and 739. "We Heal As One Centers" with a total of 27,302 bed capacities. Moreover, 6.5 million Filipinos had jobs because of “Build, Build, Build.”Time and again, President Duterte would acknowledge Secretary Mark’s accomplishments and would shower him with praises for getting the job done. After all, Secretary Mark did give it everything he got. 

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