The development of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) into its present structure underwent a long process of evolution spanning a century of colorful and significant events in laying the groundwork for the physical foundation of the country.
The Department is considered as old as the Philippine government, its existence dates back to about four (4) centuries at the time of the Spanish colonial era. It emerged from its embryonic form in 1565 when the first settlement roads were constructed by forced labor. Fortresses then were connected by improved trails as supply lines and means of communications. As Spain was in its expansion program in the islands, it resorted to a policy of attraction by way of public works construction. In order to pursue their objective, the King of Spain designated the Spanish Governor General in the country as Chief of Public Works assisted by “Junta Consultiva” through a Royal Degree in 1867.
It was in 1868 when the Bureau of Public Works and Highways (Obras Publicas) and Bureau of Communications and Transportation (Communicationes y Meteologia) were organized under a civil enginer known as “Director General”.
Since then, the Department underwent various stages of development and evolution that largely depended upon the change in government shift of administration policies, and reorganization in its structure and responsibilities to suit the demands of times.
Finally after a long process of evolution by virtue of Executive Order No. 124, dated January 30, 1987, the agency is now known as the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) with five (5) bureaus, six (6) services, sixteen (16 regional offices, twenty-four (24) project management offices sixteen (16) regional equipment services and one-hundred eighteen (118) district engineering offices.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is one of the three departments of the government undertaking major infrastructure projects. The DPWH is mandated to undertake (a) the planning of infrastructure, such as national roads and bridges, flood control, water resources projects and other public works, and (b) the design, construction, and maintenance of national roads and bridges, and major flood control systems.
The Department of Public Works and Highways functions as the engineering and construction arm of the Government tasked to continuously develop its technology for the purpose of ensuring the safety of all infrastructure facilities and securing for all public works and highways the highest efficiency and quality in construction.
DPWH is currently responsible for the planning, design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure, especially the national highways, flood control and water resources development system, and other public works in accordance with national development objectives.