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What can P10 billion buy? A lot of infrastructure and technology

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The alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), commonly known as the pork barrel, has gradually been brought to light. The PDAF is a lump sum appropriation in the national budget, allocating P200 million a year for each senator and P70 million for each member of the House of Representatives.

We have been reading about how wanted businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles has allegedly used the misappropriated P10 billion from PDAF to acquire properties both here and abroad, not to mention more than 30 vehicles including a Porsche Cayenne and a Range Rover Autobiography edition. We cannot help but ask, just what could that money have done if it were used for its real purpose—infrastructure improvement? Let’s compare it to recent and upcoming projects. Here’s a sampling of what P10 billion could paid for:

-Two-thirds of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) expressway. The future 7.15-kilometer tollway, which will connect the NAIA’s three terminals to the Skway, South Luzon Expressway, Manila-Cavite Expressway and Entertainment City casino complex. San Miguel Corp. won the bidding for this project to the tune of P15.5 billion.

-The Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway. Or at least most of it. Budgeted at P11.59 billion, the 89-kilometer expressway will substantially cut travel time to Northern Luzon.

-33 Estrella-Pantaleon bridges. The 676-meter concrete and steel bridge connecting Mandaluyong and Makati, opened in 2011, was built at a cost of P303.655 million. Traffic congestion occurs on major roads because they are often the only ones with bridges that span wide waterways such as the Pasig River. With more bridges, traffic can also be eased.

-23 Quezon Avenue-Araneta Avenue underpasses. The 440-meter, flood-resistant underpass, opened in September 2012 after fifteen months of construction, cost P430 million, below its original budget of P694 million. Travel time in the area is reduced from 30 minutes to one minute and results in daily savings of P600,000 in fuel and vehicle maintenance costs, according to DPWH.

-127 Metro Rail Transit train cars. The Department of Transportation and Communication is reviewing a supply bid of P3.77 billion to add 48 train cars to the MRT-3’s existing fleet. MRT-3 is designed to serve 350,000 passengers per day, but currently serves 600,000 people daily

-Three times renovation of NAIA Terminal 1. The DOTC has announced the rehabilitation of NAIA Terminal 1 budgeted at P2.8 billion. It’s a two-year project that will tap the talents of the Leandro V. Locsin & Associates architectural firm, as well as the design group of Kenneth Cobonpue, Budji Layug and Royal Pineda.

-52 Aluling Bridges. The bridge in Ilocos Sur connects the towns of Cervantes and Tadian, Mountain Province. Famously mentioned by President Aquino in his State of the Nation Address, the bridge took 36 years and six presidents to finish. It was built at a cost of P191.4 million, cutting travel time from Cervantes to Tadian from one hour to 30 minutes, allowing safer and faster movement of people and goods.

-12 Ternate-Nasugbu roads. The P809-million road in Cavite incorporating a 303-meter tunnel has reduced travel time from Manila from over 4.5 hours to 3 hours

-20 units of Doppler radar system for Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAG-ASA). The state-of-the-art radar system can provide information on rainfall intensity with 95-percent accuracy. This helps authorities predict direction of weather disturbances and rain intensity, which could provide advance warning of possible flooding. PAG-ASA inaugurated one such system in May 2012. It cost P500 million.

-20,000 Flood Control Information Centers (FCIC). The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority’s (MMDA)’s FCIC uses 70 closed circuit television cameras and 16 LCD monitors to gather information on potential floods. The center cost P500,000 to set up.

-Two entire sets of flood control projects covering Metro Manila. The DPWH announced “high impact, high priority” flood control projects worth P5 billion as part of the Flood Management Master Plan. The plan includes clearing of waterways, increasing drainage capacity and upgrading of pumping stations.

-Upgrading 11,300 intersections to a smart traffic light system. Smart traffic lights allow traffic engineers to monitor congestion choke points and quickly adjust traffic signal patterns to help clear traffic jams. Microwave sensors, video cameras, and electronic pass readers measure traffic volume and vehicle travel times. Instead of using preset signal pattern times, a smart traffic light system can respond to backups or blockages. Each intersection costs about P880,000 to upgrade. New York City installed a system in its midtown area for $1.6 million, or a mere 0.7 percent of the misallocated PDAF. Imagine the benefits of such a system in Metro Manila.

As you can surmise, P10 billion, allegedly pocketed by Napoles and various legislators, is a substantial amount of money. It could have gone a long way to alleviating the traffic, inconvenience and loss of time and money that we experience every day due to poor infrastructure. Instead, apart from the cost to the nation’s soul, this is the real price of that P10 billion.

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