Build, Build, Build Committee Chairperson Anna Mae Lamentillo paves the way for an age of growth and development for the country.
Impressive highways, sweeping roads, and imposing skyways. What were once difficult-to-reach places and traffic-congested areas are gradually enjoying connectivity and space with these landmark structures. These are all part of the grand infrastructure plans of the Duterte administration. Called the Build, Build, Build, the program intends to usher in the economic growth of the country since its inception in 2016. On top of the committee sits Anna Mae Yu Lamentillo.
For the past few years, the brilliant millennial has been leading the committee to fulfill the program’s projects. Although a devastating crisis struck the world, putting a halt on the government’s infrastructure plans, Anna Mae and her team pull through. “In times like this, we must work ten times as hard simply to survive,” she says. The pandemic provoked an additional challenge with many restrictions. Thus, the committee must make thorough decisions, considering the safety and best interests of people. “At the end of the day, it is our duty to deliver what we promise,” Anna Mae underlines.
Safety on ground
Recent developments from the onslaught of the pandemic meant changes in routine. “The Build Build Build team were the first one to seek an exemption from IATF to re-start big-ticket projects,” Anna explains. The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases approved the resumption of flagship projects. “The first major challenge was to deliver the complete alignment of the country’s first truck graded expressway, the NLEX Harbor Link Project, by June,” Anna Mae shares. The team had to ensure construction sites protected every worker. Each one undergoes RT-PCR tests, rapid tests, a mandatory 14-day quarantine before entry, and wears personal protective equipment (PPEs).
While running these projects, the pandemic’s impact continues to be felt in the country. Mid-2020, thousands of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) lost their jobs and were forced to return home. Fortunately, the Build, Build, Build program took more workers in. However, Anna Mae admits, “There were many sacrifices on the ground.” The risk of exposure to COVID-19 remains and so the protection of people is prioritized all the while working on the projects.
On top of difficulties
Anna Mae faced one of the major challenges not only in the project but in her wellbeing. During the early Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ), she caught the novel coronavirus. “It was difficult,” she reveals, “I think one of the biggest decisions was to move out of the family house and live in isolation.” The choice and the waiting period for the COVID-19 test results of the people she had in contact with made the situation more distressing.
Similarly, even before the pandemic, she has been through terrifying circumstances. Since taking the lead of the program, she encountered a first-hand experience of an active shootout. Together with her team and Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, they went on an aerial inspection in Marawi. They were assessing road network damages when it happened. “Our chopper was very close, we barely made it… I couldn’t talk at all on the way back, I was so shaken,” Anna Mae recalls.
She was a working student then and despite the frightening experience, she still proceeded to attend her class in law school. She took a difficult situation and transformed it into a learning experience, “If there was one thing, I learned from being a working student, it was always to show up, regardless of circumstances or how prepared I was.” Now, she is healthy and stronger than ever, ready to take on life’s challenges.
On a mission
Fulfilling her role as the chairperson of the Build Build Build committee is no easy feat especially now aggravated by a global crisis. However, Anna Mae is glad the program is able to help out as many Filipinos as possible. From the 2020 budget, DPWH intends to create more than 1.5 million jobs. Apart from this, the program’s achievements prove it is on its way to fulfilling the goal of ushering in “the golden age of infrastructure.” “Since July 2016,” Anna Mae says, “we have built 25,343 km of roads, 5,271 bridges, 9797 flood control projects, 2,019 School Workshop Buildings, 141,687 classrooms, and 138 evacuation centers.”
Technology has been integrated into the plans as well, with DPWH’s Infra-track App. This “would utilize the built-in geotagging feature, satellite technology, and drone monitoring,” she explains. Thus, the problem of having a ghost or stagnant projects can be easily tracked and officially shut down to make way for more active construction.
What can Filipinos expect in the future? “Every city in Metro Manila can be accessed within a 20 to 30-minute time frame,” Anna Mae claims. This is a dream for drivers and motorists moving within and through the capital, given the many hours they spend stuck in traffic. As of writing, drivers spend an average of 53% additional travel time given the congestion on roads. Hopefully, this will drastically change for the better with the Build, Build, Build program. “What’s even more exciting is that we are almost done with a masterplan that will connect Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao via land travel.” Not only will metro residents enjoy the ease with traveling but even those in farther regions as well, increasing connectivity of Filipinos.
Seeing the grand infrastructure plans come into fruition may take a long time. “More than ever, human collectivism is key,” Anna Mae points out. Last year’s events made her realize it is still possible to deliver remarkable changes despite the pandemic. “We have prepared for wars even before they happened. Maybe this time—we ought to work together, collectively and purposively, regardless of race, ethnicity, political affiliation, and religion, in finding a solution to a threat that has shaken our very definition of civilization,” she concludes.
Photos ED SIMON of STUDIO 100