When the construction of Skyway Stage 3 started, I was a freshmen in law school. Almost every day, I’d pass by the same alignment which, if completed, would cut travel time from North Luzon Expressway to South Luzon Expressway from 2.5 hours to only 30 minutes. At the time, I was still working for United Nations and our Manila Office was located at the RCBC Plaza on HV dela Costa on Ayala Avenue. There were many days I hoped they’d fast-track the construction. The promise of reduced travel time from Makati to QC meant more time to study, dine, shower or sleep. Little did I know that I’d be part of the project about two years later.
Skyway Stage 3 is an 18-km expressway from Buendia in Makati to Balintawak in Quezon City. The problem was delayed due to difficulty in acquiring the right-of-way required for the original alignment — specifically at Section 2B from Pandacan to Sta. Mesa.
Since the project was started until November, 2017, accomplishment on right-of-way activities was almost nil. For instance, site possession for the entire alignment was only at 8.64%. Before the issuance of Department Order 65, only Section 1 had substantial right-of-way acquisition, which was only at 34.85%. No right of way was acquired for Section 2A and 2B. Section 3 and Section 4 were only at 2.86% and 5.5% respectively.
Relocation of the 47 National Grid Corporation poles and 1,312 Meralco poles only started in May, 2017.
It was clear that the original alignment that was proposed had to be revised. In May, 2017, Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar received a proposal from San Miguel Corporation to realign Section 2B to utilize the San Juan River alignment. The Memorandum of Agreement was signed on October 25, 2018, which included the construction of an interconnection structure between Metro Manila Skyway Stage 3 and the NLEX SLEX Connector, an 8-kilometer elevated 4-lane toll expressway from NLEX Harbor Link Segment 10 in C3 Road, Caloocan City, to PUP Sta. Mesa in Manila.
Twelve months later, civil works construction for the main span of Skyway Stage 3 is completed. By December, travel time from NLEX to SLEX will be reduced from 2 hours to only 30 minutes. Makati to Quezon City will only be 20 minutes.
The problem of Skyway Stage 3 is not an isolated incident. The problem of right of way has hounded many infrastructure projects for decades. Mindanao Avenue Extension — a project which connects North Caloocan to both the North Luzon Expressway and Quezon City has been delayed for about 40 years. It took six presidents to complete Radial Road 10 — a 9.7-kilometer expressway from Delpan Bridge, Tondo, Manila, to the mouth of the Malabon River at Bangkulasi Bridge, C-4 Road, in Navotas City.
In Mindanao, we also opened Cagayan de Oro Coastal Road, a project which was first funded in 1997. Now, the 12.77 km serves as a bypass road starting from Brgy. Gusa in the eastern side all the way to the western side in Brgy. Igpit, Opol, in Misamis Oriental, connecting six barangays in the city and two barangays in Opol.
Reforms in DPWH
As early as 2016, when the Duterte administration launched the “Build, Build, Build” program, , Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Mark Villar instituted key reforms in the right-of-way processes, including the issuance of an administrative order creating Right-of-Way Task Forces for each of the projects being implemented. He also decentralized the ROW acquisition functions and delegated the duties and responsibilities to various implementing units. Prior to this, regional offices were not capacitated with their own right-of-way divisions and were dependent only on legal support provided by the Central Office.
Moreover, DPWH institutionalized the use of Infra-Track App which detects ghost project real time through geotagging.
As early as when the system detects a 5% negative slippage — the contractor involved in the project is given a warning and required to submit a “catch-up program” to eliminate the slippage or delay.
If such slippage furthers to at least 10%, he will be given a second warning and required to submit a detailed action program on a two-week basis, which commits him to accelerate the work and accomplish specific physical targets which reduce the slippage over a defined time period. The contractor will be instructed to specify the additional input resources – money, manpower, materials, machines, and management — which he should mobilize for this action program.
At any point the contractor incurs a delay of at least 15%, he will be given a final warning and required to come up with a more detailed program of activities with weekly physical targets, together with the required additional input resources. On-site supervision will be intensified, and evaluation of project performance will be done at least once a week. At the same time, the project manager, district engineer, or regional director shall prepare a contingency plan for the termination or rescission of the contract and or takeover of the work by administration or contract.
All contractors with ongoing DPWH contracts which have incurred negative slippages of 15% or more will automatically be pre-disqualified from future biddings until after the negative slippage have been reduced to less than 15%. No time suspensions are provided without the prior approval of the secretary or the undersecretary in charge. Negligence or inexcusable failure of the contractor to provide the required equipment, supplies, or materials are also not tolerated.