‘DEAD-END’: Lawmakers press DPWH over unpublicized flyover probe results

UFO AT THE HOUSE. The committee on public works and highways tackled on Tuesday the Ungka Flyover with Ilonggo representatives Jojo Ang, Ferj Biron, Mike Gorriceta (not in photo), Lorenz Defensor (not in photo) and Jamjam Baronda in attendance. The congressional inquiry focused on the facts and issues that contributed to the defective construction of the P680-M infra.

By Joseph Bernard A. Marzan

The congressional hearing on controversies surrounding the Ungka flyover in Pavia, Iloilo did not yield any development or updates as officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)-Western Visayas reaffirmed their lack of knowledge on the results of the probe by a third-party consultant into the flyover’s structural design and integrity.

The DPWH went under the House of Representatives’ (HOR) microscope during a hearing on the Ungka Flyover’s ‘sinking’ piers and why the investigation results have not been publicized.

The hearing was conducted by the HOR’s Committee on Public Works and Highways headed by Surigao del Sur 1st district Representative Romeo Momo. It stemmed from House Resolution No. 721 filed by Makabayan Party-list Reps. Raoul Danniel Manuel (Kabataan), Arlene Brosas (Gabriela), and France Castro (ACT Teachers), earlier this year.

The resolution focused not only on the Ungka Flyover, but also the nearby Aganan Flyover. The former straddles Iloilo City and its neighboring Pavia town, while the latter is in the town’s busy intersection.

DPWH-WV was represented by Assistant Regional Director Jose Al Fruto, who detailed the timeline of the flyover’s development until the present time.

Fruto had been in the same position in the regional office throughout the flyover’s lifetime – from the start of civil works, initial opening, and the controversies and eventual probe under former Regional Directors Lea Delfinado, Tiburcio Canlas, and Nerie Bueno.

Iloilo 3rd district Rep. Lorenz Defensor grilled Fruto over their lack of knowledge on the probe conducted by Abinales Associates Engineers + Consultants under a ₱13.48-million contract signed in March 2023.

Defensor was joined by the committee chairperson in expressing shock, after asking which DPWH office procured the consulting services.

This, after both Momo and committee vice-chairperson, Bulacan 6th district Rep. Salvador Pleyto, pressed Fruto on the initial results of the probe.

Fruto previously told the media in July 20223 that while they did receive the final probe report, it was immediately forwarded to the DPWH’s central office for further action.

He was unable to answer any questions on further actions to be pursued by the central office on the flyover’s sinking piers.

Fruto confirmed that the payment had not yet been released to the Abinales firm.

“[A]s Assistant Regional Director [of the DPWH-WV], I don’t believe that you don’t know the recommendation by the third-party consultant that you engaged. At least at your level, you need to know that,” Defensor told Fruto.

“If you [DPWH-WV] entered into contract with the, supposed to be all the reports would be forwarded to you, not the central office because you are the one paying them, and you are the one entering into contract with them. And how can you pay them under your terms and conditions if they will not submit your findings? You should have been the one to receive the findings,” Momo told the assistant regional director.

Defensor remarked that “time is of the essence” in solving the flyovers’ controversies, and that it did not affect only Iloilo City and Pavia town, but also other areas due to their placement on the Benigno Aquino Sr. Avenue, one of the city and province’s major thoroughfares.

“In the span of almost 2 months, is there any information from the Bureau of Design that there’s any movement that the [DPWH] will recommend? Because, Mr. Chair [Momo], time is of the essence. The whole of Iloilo will be affected. It is a major artery affecting not only one town, Pavia, but it affects the flow of traffic in central Iloilo, including the city,” he said.

As to current movements, the director said that they have not detected any major displacement aside from the 556 millimeters which were included in the initial reports provided by the Abinales firm.

Momo has already scheduled another meeting on the matter, with an unknown date as of this writing, and structural engineer Adam Abinales, who led the Ungka probe, will be invited for inquiry, along with officials from the DPWH central office and the Bureau of Design.