The P30-billion superhighway project of the national government in the province of Palawan, which will expand the entire stretch of the national highway to six lanes, is being aimed to advance the province’s productivity and economic growth and to improve our connection and trade with the neighboring states of Brunei, Indonesia, and Malaysia. While it is unquestionably for the benefit of the general public, especially the Palaweňos, there are many concerns popping out from the social media and the local news outlets since the commencement of this grand project.
Many accidents, minor and major ones, are being reported in many places where the roads construction is going on. While there may be negligence on the part of some commuters like over-speeding and drunk-driving, it is undeniable that there are also violations committed by the contractors. Travelers from the North and South Palawan can testify to these claims – lack of barriers, shoring, lights, danger signs, and other safeguards to protect the workers and the public from possible injuries especially during the night. These are all clear non-compliance with the safety manual approved by the Construction Industry Authority of the Philippines (CIAP), a government entity created to promote, accelerate and regulate the growth and development of the nation’s construction industry in conformity with national goals. CIAP is attached to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for policy and program coordination. Moreover, these acts are also in violation vis-à-vis Section 9, Chapter 3 of RA 110581 also known as “An Act Strengthening Compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Standards and Providing Penalties for Violations Thereof”.
Despite the complaints of the victims to make these contractors accountable to the incurred damages and to call out the government to reprimand these contractors, there seems to be no development on their part, because similar accidents due to similar violations still happen repeatedly. How many lives must be wasted and how much inconvenience from injuries the public will experience before the government gives punishments on these negligent contractors with due accordance?
In Singapore, for the sake of comparison, their government has created a program that actively punishes companies with poor safety management by revoking their “bizSAFE” certification and putting them under close supervision. Meanwhile, in the Philippines, implementation of similar disciplinary measures seems to be ineffectual and toothless. It appears that these companies always have the favor of the government for some reason, instead of the government protecting the public and the poor victims of these derelict contractors. Repeated violations must be enough grounds for them to undergo sanctions and prohibitions, per regulations.
The hullabaloo will not end until the government starts to closely monitor these contractors, and to truly hold them accountable over their violations. The public must see the efforts of the government doing its job. But up to this moment, and according to fairness, many would agree that it’s not happening yet.