By Ellson Quismorio
Deputy Speaker Raneo Abu is calling on his fellow legislators to immediately pass the proposed 2019 General Appropriations Act (GAA) for the sake of his traffic jam-weary constituents in Batangas.
“Our 2019 national budget has been approved already in the Lower House. That’s why we are then calling on our counterpart in the Senate and the Bicameral Committee to act on the passage of the GAA when the session resumes on Monday,” Abu told House reporters in a press conference.
According to the Batangas 2nd district representative, the implementation of key programs such as infrastructure projects relies on the passage of a new GAA.
“There are lots of government programs and projects that are being tied or delayed due to the non-approval of the new budget,” Abu said.
Among these infrastructure endeavors are the countless road-widening projects across the country and the new road networks being built in the countryside.
In Batangas alone, the delay in the approval of the P3.757-trillion budget greatly affects the on-going P1.104-billion Batangas City-Bauan By-pass Road that is envisioned to declog the worsening traffic situation in the Batangas City- San Pascual-Bauan- Mabini portion of the Batangas City-Palico Highway.
A longtime headache of locals, the daily traffic jams there jacks up the cost of both services and products of the industries along the Batangas Bay. These include international ports, oil refinery and depots, and power plants- all of which provide the requirements of Luzon.
The Batangas City-San Pascual-Bauan By-pass Road is a multi-year funded project that started in 2017. The project is implemented by the Regional Office No. 4-A and Batangas II District Engineering Office.
“These projects were included in the NEP (National Expenditure Program) and also in the third reading version of the budget when it was passed by the House of Representatives,” Abu pointed out.
A further delay would mean that the biddings of the other components of the by-pass road would be delayed as well. He said the upcoming election ban would also hamper the continuous implementation of the project.
The whole project covers the construction of the Batangas – San Pascual – Bauan Road, which includes a national road in Barangay Balagtas, Batangas City. It traverses various barangays in Batangas City, San Pascual, and Bauan that feature agricultural lands of rolling terrain, it then goes northwest toward mostly rolling terrain and down the flat agricultural areas.
It is designed to connect to the existing national road of Mabini-Bauan Road in Barangay San Roque, Bauan.
Divided into two major segments – the Balagtas-Banaba portion in Batangas City under the Batangas 2nd Engineering District, and the Banaba-Manghinao Portion that is being implemented by DPWH-Regional Office IV-A–the by-pass road has a width of 30 meters and a total length of 10.833 kilometers. It includes the construction of four bridges, Abu said.
In 2017, a P199-million budget was appropriated on top of the P120 million allocation for the acquisition of road right of way. Last year, some P633,190,000 were appropriated for the project, including coverage for the cost of two bridges.
“Here comes the immediate need to pass the budget as the P210-million proposed appropriation for the next two bridges are included in this 2019 GAA,” the lawmaker said.
Abu said the series of projects which commenced in November 2017 is now 52 percent complete.
“We have already reached more than halfway of these projects and its completion now relies on the approval of the 2019 budget, that’s why we are looking forward to the approval of the 2019 GAA in the soonest time possible,” the Batangueño said.