Philippines Roundtable with DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson

Yesterday in an event sponsored by the US Philippines Society and the Southeast Asia Department at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington DC, Rogelio Singson, Secretary of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) of the Philippines, highlighted his attempts to reign in the waste and corruption prevalent in previous administrations. For the majority of its existence, the DPWH has had a reputation of being a tool to enrich local politicians rather than to provide a public service to Filipinos. In his speech, Singson argued that his continual crackdown on corrupt officials and the implementation of a new transparent system of bidding on public works has saved over 15 billion pesos.

At the DPWH’s 113th anniversary in 2011, President of the Philippines Benigno Aquino III lauded Singson’s leadership in alleviating the problem of corruption within the agency. “The DPWH that previously was buried in a quicksand of corruption, commissions and other forms of graft is now a primary model of an honest, straight and caring agency of the government,” he said. Based on the Social Weather Station (SWS) Survey on Enterprise Corruption, a public opinion polling body in the Philippines, DPWH’s standing increased from -65 in 2009 to -21 in 2013. The Global Competitiveness Report of 2012 -2013 showed that the quality of roads in the Philippines had improved. “The president has taken us to task, that every kilometer of national road will be fixed by 2016,” said Singson.

Among the new initiatives that Singson highlighted was the doubling of investments to Mindanao from 14 to 28 billion pesos in light of the successful ceasefire with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. He said that the region “continues to show a lot of promise, especially with the peace agreement with MILF.” Another project discussed was the implementation of eco-friendly flood prevention technology. Singson emphasized the need for a long term solution to flooding in Metro Manila commenting that the Philippines experienced around 20 typhoons every year. Singson also envisioned a tourism infrastructure program that involved a high standard highway for Metro Manila in response to expectations of 10 million foreign tourists coming in by 2016. He also noted that $1.6 billion worth of projects have been opened up to foreign contractors with four of the last five projects being awarded to Chinese contractors.