There is no contention that a good road infrastructure network is crucial for economic growth and poverty reduction. This provides a physical link to various communities in urban and rural areas with outside markets. A good network of roads is indispensable in the timely movement of people and transport of goods with low transaction costs. In fact, the country’s road network carries about 58 percent of all domestic freight traffic and 98 percent of domestic passenger traffic.
For this reason, development of the country’s road infrastructure network became one of the primary projects of the past administration. Through the past administration’s committed efforts, the entire country is now linked through the 919-kilometer Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH) covering 17 cities, towns and islands using the usual land and sea routes.
Admittedly the SRNH has contributed much not only to enhance investment opportunities for agriculture and industry, commerce, trade and tourism. Equally important is the fact that it has also provided efficient and convenient travel movement of local and international tourists and investors through shorter travel time and cheaper transportation costs. Beyond this, the past administration also put much focus on other infra projects like the development and repair of bridges, farm-to-market roads, as well as airports. In fact many of the projects that were started under former President Arroyo reached completion after her term, and consequently during the inaugural opening of these completed projects, were unabashedly claimed as part of the fruits of the “Tuwid Na Daan” under this current administration.
Comparatively however, despite its importance to the national economy, road infrastructure development has considerably dropped since President Aquino took over in 2010. Worse, the President’s anti-corruption governance platform has been consistently challenged by allegations of graft and corruption from the national line offices all the way to the doorsteps of Malacañang.
Specifically, informal reports reaching us underscore the need to look at how the Road Board is using its funds. Our information is that the money is being used to fund the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), even as the law specifically says that the Road Board’s fund is to be used for purely engineering purposes. We have nothing against providing subsidies for the poor but there is much to be said about how the CCT has been perverted and prostituted to perpetuate the personal agenda of the DSWD Secretary and earn brownie points for her boss in Malacañang.
Going back to the alleged anomalies of the Road Board, insiders tell us that since the funds are being diverted to support the CCT and non-engineering purposes, we are now scrimping on the maintenance of our roads. Reports have it that we are now down to one person to clear two kilometers of road, which is preposterous. The question that begs to be answered at this point is the competence and the integrity of the Road Board. Due to the numerous allegations of corruption and anomalous transactions involving the Road Board and the use of the funds collected through the road users tax, Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III has even recommended the abolition of the Road Board.
I submit that there should be an independent audit of the funds of the Road Board instead of the abolition of the entire organization. The performance of the Board during the past administration shows that when its funds are used for the intended purpose, it contributes much to the welfare of the whole country. It is just unfortunate that what we have now is a weak leadership which draws its strength of being from doles and shortcuts in the use of funds.