Opposition heats up over ambitious Mayon Circumferential Road Project

Photo courtesy of Cesar Bañares / SAVE Mayon

By Manly M. Ugalde

LEGAZPI CITY, Albay – A virtually unknown grandiose plan to build a circumferential road around the 261.4-kilometer in diameter Mayon Volcano have surprised Albayanos as the project proceeded on its implementation.

The multi-billion project, however, was met with a barrage of objections and criticism in the social media, including from the Philippine Volcanology and Seismology, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

With the initial funding of P60 million, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) began the implementation only to be halted following the objections from Phivolcs and DENR.

On Wednesday, DENR Bicol assistant regional director Roberto Sheen, in a press conference, said the DENR will file criminal and administrative charges against DPWH executives over the cutting of trees in the project sites believed to be within the protected area without the required cutting permit and absence of Environmental Clearance Certificate. The seized cut trees were brought to the DENR compound.

Sheen feared that the Mayon circumferential road project, if push through, will endanger the many protected areas around Mayon.

Phivolcs resident volcanologist Ed Laguerta said the road project around Mayon would intrude the Mayon 6-kilometer Permanent Danger Zone which has long been declared as a no man’s land. Laguerta sent his report to Phivolcs director Renato Solidum for his final action following a partial survey conducted on the project sites.

According to lawyer Maria Carmen Taopo of the Bicol Environment Management Bureau (EMB), a show cause order have been sent already to District Engineer Simon Arias of the Albay 1st District Engineering Office in Legazpi to answer within 10 days on why the circumferential road project was started without ECC. She said a penalty of P50,000 awaits the respondent DPWH.

Marcial Tuanqui, former president of the Albay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, wonders why absence of public consultation and DENR clearances, the project was hastily started by the DPWH. In his posted FB account, Tuanqui urged the government to stop the road construction, saying it is not for the best interest of the province. He wonders how the grandiose project hurdled the Regional Development Council without undergoing public consultation.

Albayanos was surprised when news leaked that a circumferential road is being constructed around Mayon following the Phivolcs and DENR allegations through the media. Social media reactions pointed out that cutting of trees would certainly lead to soil erosion and flooding.

The construction of the Mayon road opening projects was started as early as June at Barangay Bonga of Bacacay town and the neighboring Barangay San Roque of Malilipot town in the first district. Albay 1st district engineer Simon Arias cannot be contacted for comment as he was reported to be always in Manila. His information officer Marites Manago also refused to answer calls and text messages.

According to Engr. Cesar Sanorjo, Albay DPWH 1st Construction Chief, the P60 million initial funding was for two road opening at Barangay Bonga (2 Kms) and at Barangay San Roque (1 km). He said the Bonga road opening has a budget of P50 million while the San Roque road opening was P10 million. Sanorjo explained that between the two road opening projects is an old road that would connect the two barangays.

Photo courtesy of Cesar Bañares / SAVE Mayon

Under contract with the giant Sunwest Group of Companies (P50M), the P10 million is under contract with DSB Construction, the most favoured Albay 1st local contractors according to DPWH records. A source said Sunwest Group, which built roads and bridges leading to Cagraray island, is also the owner of the Misibis Resort. Sunwest also built the P4 billion 5-kilometer long Legazpi boulevard.

Ako Bicol Party list congressman Arnel Batocabe defended the project, saying the blueprint of the project showed it’s outside the PDZ. He said the Mayon circumferential road would serve as an alternate route for the province 16 towns and 3 cities.

Ako Bicol Partylist is strongly linked with Sunwest Group of Companies.

Contacted for comment, Albay Gov. Al Francis Bichara spokesman Danny Garcia said the governor is not aware whether the project had passed through the RDC. Bichara is the RDC chairman. Garcia said in telephone calls that the governor was surprised how the project was started without the ECC and cutting permit from the DENR.

Asked why the DPWH did not secure the ECC and cutting permit from DENR, regional legal officer Oliver Rodulfo heaped the blame on the Albay 1st District Engineering who is responsible in the initial implementation of the project.

Phivolcs in coordination with the provincial government had long declared PDZ as a no-man’s land and also banned Mayon climbing activities.

Phivolcs said that in past eruptions, Phivolcs had to expand the danger zone to as far as 8 kilometers citing during the 1993 eruption where more than 85 residents died.

According to volcanologist Alex Balutan, Mayon remain under alert level 1. He said any time Mayon may erupt citing the 1993 major eruption where no signs or indication of Mayon abnormality was shown in the Phivolcs monitoring equipment. [BicolToday.com]

Posted by on October 23, 2017. Filed under Bicol News,Headlines. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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