Tuesday, August 28, 2012

ADB gives gov't 'failing grade'

Tempo published this article on August 27, 2012. It can also be accessed at: http://www.tempo.com.ph/2012/saving-pasig-adb-gives-govt-failing-grade/ 

MB Research

Manila, Philippines – The Philippine government’s efforts to deal with the Pasig River problem received a “failing grade“ from the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

ADB, an international financial institution, granted the national government a US$100-million policy loan intended to fund river rehabilitation projects. The loan was released in two installments: US$40 million in August 2000 and US$60 million in December 2003.

The bank gave the mark in its 2010 completion and evaluation report, citing three major reasons:

First, the government lacked political support that led to difficulty in coordination among concerned agencies. ADB assessed that “the success of the program needed high-level political support, which was reduced with the change in administration in 2001."

Second, the rehabilitation program had unattainable goals due to unclear project expectations. The bank found the program “too ambitious and too complicated“ for a newly established agency to oversee.

Lastly, the government failed to introduce urban renewal in the river area. ADB felt that the government should have waited for the approval of the ADB loan before purchasing resettlement properties to address the needs of informal settlers along riverbanks.

“During the first years of program implementation, the focus was on establishing a feasible project scope and manageable implementation and financing arrangements, leading to delays and little progress, as illustrated by the low disbursement ratio,“ ADB said in the report.

ADB supports the Philippine government’s 15-year-old Pasig River rehabilitation program handled by the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC). [more]
PRRC was mandated by former President Joseph Estrada’s Executive Order (E.O.) 54, signed on January 6, 1999, to eliminate the complicated delegation of duties among river rehabilitation bodies and to act as Pasig River rehabilitation’s central governing body.

With PRRC in full command, all co-existing Pasig River Development Council (PRDC), Presidential Task Force on Pasig River Rehabilitation (PTFPRR), and River Rehabilitation Secretariat (RRS) were abolished. Their functions, equipment and logistics were assumed by and transferred to PRRC.

E.O. 54 was later amended to E.O. 65 to allow private sector participation. From then on, PRRC’s objectives caught the attention of ADB.

Subject to the implementation of a time-bound policy framework, the ADB loan is allocated for programs designed to include the first phase of the rehabilitation plan that would run from 1999 to 2014.

ADB concluded that the government’s target until 2014 to elevate the river’s water quality to good condition was also highly ambitious that it may not be done.

It also noted that “although PRDP (Pasig River Development Program) provided a good framework for the implementation of environmental improvement projects, more and longer-term assistance is required to establish the institutional setting for its effective implementation."

Since Day One, PRRC has envisioned garbage-free tributaries, improved water quality and renewed urban infrastructures.

Some parts of Manila, Pasig, Taguig, Marikina, Rizal, and Cavite have seen the construction of linear parks and relocation of families on the banks of Pasig River.

Development communication materials, advocacy ads, maximum media mileage, book launching, river-based garbage collection, aside from the roadside door-todoor collection program, May Pera sa Basura, and environmental police assignment all contributed to the garbage-free drive.

For the water quality improvement strategy, PRRC built artificial wetlands, sewerage and wastewater treatment plant, with constant water quality monitoring facilities.

Urban renewal programs included dredging, putting up of environmental preservation areas, and construction of ferry stations and river highways.

But ADB found these efforts insufficient.

“It has long been a challenge trying to rehabilitate the Pasig River. Environmentally, it is pretty devastated,“ said ADB’s Lead Urban Development specialist Rudolf Frauendorfer. (TO BE CONTINUED)

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