Wednesday, August 21, 2013
SCTEX bridge collapse needs investigation, not only repair
How did a five year old highway suffer a catastrophic failure such as this simply due to rain and erosion? The Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway was supposed to be the most modern highway in the Philippines. The highway cost nearly a billion dollars to build (34.9 billion pesos) with 78 percent of the cost funded by a loan from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The Subic to Clark segment was built by Kajima-Obayashi-JFE Engineering-Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Inc. The involvement of JICA and the Japanese contractor was supposed to be a safeguard against the corruption that in endemic, particularly in the province of Pampanga (home to such colossal scams as the FVR megadike and the Expo Centennial). Regular users of the highway have seen it gradually disentregrate since it opened in 2008. Supports holding back landslide areas erode every rain season. Potholes and uneven pavement are regular fixtures. Much of the highway is under nealry constant repair or "reblocking" as it is called locally. Did JICA do a post-project evaluation of the construction quality of the highway? For those familiar with public works corruption in the Philippines, SCTEX shows familiar symptoms. Erosion and potholes during rainy seasons are common indicators that substandard aggregate was used during construction in order to syphon off funds. There is no evidence, as far as we know, that this took place but being as the Philippines is still paying off a loan for hundreds of millions of pesos, they should enlist the cooperation of JICA and the Japanese contractor in a careful investigation of whether this highway was built to the standards called for in the original specifications.