Bridge to nowhere

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We’ve seen videos in social media of bridges and roads in first-world countries being finished in a matter of days or even hours.

Here in the Philippines, the scenario is entirely different: infrastructure projects languish for years – decades even – and, in the worst case, were never completed at all.

A week or so ago, a mock event on Facebook by an independent candidate running for councilor in San Pedro City became viral among the city’s residents.

The “event”? “3rd Anniversary Celebration ng Tulay ng San Pedro.”

For many San Pedronians, the bridge the candidate is talking about is all too obvious: the San Pedro bridge along the National Highway near the city proper, which is still unfinished after the bridge-widening project by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) started way back in 2016.

Three years later, only half of the beams have been installed, while construction materials occupy nearly one-thirds of the National Highway.

The road – incidentally,  one of the main arteries not only of San Pedro but of Southern Luzon as well – had been repeatedly closed or subjected to one-way schemes due to the construction of the bridge, causing traffic jams the likes of which the city has not experienced before. 

Some residents have even joked that the highly popular evening teleserye “Ang Probinsyano” will beat the bridge construction in longevity.

No wonder the mock event (styled a la “Suntukan sa Ace Hardware”) immediately gained attention among San Pedronians. 

As of this writing, 7,600 Facebook users expressed their "interest" while 1,400 users confirmed their "attendance" to the supposed event.

You may think the candidate for councilor may have thought of creating this event as satire, but it has become an effective way of calling out to the DPWH and local contractors about the sad state of our local infra projects.

People had been asking: Big-ticket construction projects under President Rodrigo Duterte’s “Build Build Build” program had been running on schedule under the care of large construction companies.

Why can’t small-time contractors follow suit and deliver their projects on time? 

Maybe the right question in this regard is not “Why?” but “How much?”

That is, how much “kickbacks” have been given by these contractors to unscrupulous government officials from these multimillion government projects?

It’s an open secret in the Philippines that substantial shares of funds for these projects often end up in the pockets of public officials, often with the connivance of contractors.

And as the money flows into their pockets, implementation of these infra projects slows down almost to a standstill.

The result: even more hardship for the very public who are supposed to benefit from these so-called “public service.”