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Government set to spend P28.9B for right-of-ways

A Mindanao lawmaker has disclosed that the national government is prepared to spend up to P28.9 billion in 2019 for right-of-way (ROW) payments for infrastructure projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

“The amount is P27.5 billion smaller, or 49 percent less than the P56.4 billion earmarked this year for the DPWH’s payments for ROW expenses,” said Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel, a member of the House committee on appropriations.

“To ensure absolute transparency and greater accountability, we would urge the DPWH to henceforth post on its website the list of payees, the amounts paid and the properties acquired to pave the way for the construction of new roads, flyovers and bridges,” said Pimentel.

The Senate blue ribbon committee earlier urged the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice (DoJ) to conduct lifestyle checks on officials suspected of complicity in a multibillion-peso ROW payment scam.

Sen. Richard Gordon, committee chairman, said the DPWH lost up to P8.7 billion from the rip-off that involved fraudulent claims for ROW payments backed by bogus land titles.

Officials and staff at the DPWH, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Budget and Management and the Land Registration Authority have been implicated in the scam, according to Gordon.

ROW expenses are authorized by Republic Act (RA) No. 10752, An Act Facilitating the Acquisition of ROW Site or Location for National Government Infrastructure Projects.

“Under the law, the national government may acquire real property needed as ROW site or location for any infrastructure project via donation, negotiated sale, expropriation, or any other mode of acquisition, as provided by law,” said Pimentel.

The DPWH is required to settle all ROW obligations before the start of projects, the lawmaker from Mindanao said.