Budget for ‘right-of-way’ settlement jacked up
To fast-track the implementation of the Duterte administration’s massive infrastructure buildup, the government has raised this year’s budget for right-of-way acquisition and committed to hire more legal personnel.
Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno yesterday told reporters that under the 2018 national budget, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) would get P20.5 billion while the Department of Transportation (DOTr) would receive P14.4 billion for right-of-way payments for big-ticket infrastructure projects.
The P34.9-billion allocation for the two agencies’ right-of-way concerns was higher than the P32.6 billion in 2017 and P4.2 billion in 2015.
“This is intended to reduce bottlenecks in the implementation of infrastructure projects,” Diokno said.
Diokno earlier said they would also help the DPWH and the DOTr in hiring legal staff, in line with the two agencies’ plan to man their regional offices with more lawyers.
Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said an increase in manpower in their legal division would help expedite the resolution of right-of-way issues.
Villar said the DPWH and the DOTr had already created a joint task force that would address right-of-way concerns.
“That’s a very significant development—it hasn’t been done before,” Villar said.
Also, Villar said the government would put in place resettlement action plans to for affected informal settlers in cooperation with the National Housing Authority during the early stage of project implementation.
“At the feasibility study stage, we will already have resettlement action plans. We can expect that with earlier planning, we can speed up the acquisition of right-of-way,” according to Villar.
During the Fourth Philippines-Japan Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation Meeting in Lapu-Lapu City on Monday, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said the Philippine officials discussed with their Japanese counterparts the progress on the right-of-way acquisition and land-resettlement concerns.
In the past, problems in acquiring right-of-way delayed infrastructure projects rolled out by both the government and the private sector. Republic Act No. 10752, or the Right-of-Way Act, signed by former President Benigno Aquino III in 2015 aimed to address that roadblock.
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