Luzon Urban Beltway projects: Towards sustained economic reforms
San Fernando City, Pampanga (20 February) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced in her State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) in 2006 the creation of the Luzon Urban Beltway (LUB) as part of the super regions concept.
Two and a half years after its formation, the LUB has played a vital role in pursuit of the completion of the President's legacy programs and projects. This, according to LUB champion, Secretary Edgardo Pamintuan, who is also the Cabinet Officer for Regional Development (CORD) for Central Luzon.
"Despite its meager budget and logistics, it has served as a middle ground for differing opinions and conflict resolution relative to the implementation of priority projects," Pamintuan said.
2008 year-end accomplishments
Thus, its completed projects in 2008 reflect its determination to rise above challenges, focused as it is in accomplishing its goals within its identified timeline, he added.
The past year saw the completion and operation of four legacy infrastructure projects - two toll roads, one airport, and one seaport - and the completion of the first segment of a toll road project.
Two of these projects are in Central Luzon namely in Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) Project and the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) Passenger Terminal 1 Expansion Project.
According to Pamintuan, the SCTEx Project is the backbone of the Subic-Clark Mega Logistics Hub. It was for the expected influx of tourists during the Holy Week in Subic, Clark, and nearby municipalities.
Then on July 24, 2008, the 93.7 kilometer stretch from Tarlac to Subic was completely opened to traffic.
The DMIA Passenger Terminal 1 Expansion Project, on the other hand, increased the handling capacity of the existing passenger terminal building from one million persons to two million persons per annum.
This, Pamintuan said, is an improvement which befits DMIA as one of the country's premier gateway. Thus, it was President Arroyo herself who led in its inauguration on April 4, 2008, the same observed her natal day in her home province of Pampanga.
Role in conflict resolution
Pursuant to Executive Order 561, the LUB is tasked to "work out operational policies and remedial actions to ensure that the priority programs and projects are completed on schedule, in full transparency, and at the lowest cost to government".
Thus, Pamintuan disclosed that "the LUB has been pro-active in addressing bottleneck issues surrounding problematic projects through inter-agency high level and coordination meetings, periodic site inspections and evaluation, technical working groups, active monitoring and direct interventions."
For the SCTEx project, the LUB played a critical role in the resolution of problems particularly those concerning CP-1. LUB recommended solutions which enables the contractors to carry-out definitive actions to complete the project.
Likewise, through the LUB, the President granted a four-month extension to one contractor and a 140-day extension to another.
The LUB also led a number of inter-agency high level coordination meetings with the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and various stakeholders, aside from conducting periodic site inspections and evaluation of the project.
On Pampanga interchanges, the LUB was instrumental in determining the viable and most cost-effective locations for the SCTEx interchanges in Porac and Angeles City. It also requested the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)-Region III to expedite the final construction plan for the Floridablanca Access Road to facilitate its funding requirements.
In addition to these, the LUB assisted the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) in conducting a number of site inspections to different farm-to-market road projects and small irrigation projects in various EWa in Pampanga and in conducting a Community Benefit Assessment (CBA) relative to the SCTEx's benefits in various municipalities in Bataan, Tarlac, Zambales, and Pampanga.
LUB's performance assessed
Since its formation in 2006, the LUB was tasked to monitor initially 15 priority government infrastructure projects.
By the first quarter of 2007, 10 new projects were added to the LUB project list; and then 20 more after a year.
Presently, the LUB monitors 45 big-ticket infrastructure projects with total investments of the Php 566 billion.
It encountered problems common to most infrastructure projects such as funding, contract deficiencies, design inconsistencies, inadequate planning, procurement difficulties such as bidding procedures, difficulties in inter-agency coordination and project operations.
The LUB, given its ad hoc status, has been likewise hampered by a meager budget and logistics. Yet it has actively and successfully played its role in conflict resolution leading to project completion.
These problems, on top of such problems as global economic slowdown and inflation, the LUB, Pamintuan said, is "strongly committed to continue carrying-out its tasks through close monitoring of the priority projects and instituting much needed interventions whenever necessary in order to meet the targeted accomplishments for the coming years," towards ensuring the successful turnover of the Arroyo administration's legacy to Central Luzon and to the country, as a whole". (PIA-Region III) [top]