By Manly M. Ugalde
LEGAZPI CITY, Albay – The Department of Public Works and Highways is struggling hard resolving old and ongoing road obstructions that have cost alarming road accidents in Bicol where a son of a DPWH official who was driving a car figured in a road accident twice that killed two pedestrians in a district his father is the district engineer.
The Philippine National Police reported close to 8,000 road accidents covering the period 2015 – 2016 for Albay alone. Last year, the PNP reported 3,800-plus road accidents, according to Albay provincial police office spokesman Senior Police Inspector Art Gomez.
DPWH assistant regional director Esmeraldo Sarmiento, however, said the region’s 16 district engineering are doing it’s best to lessen the obstructions that developed severe traffic congestions in many parts of Bicol, aggravated by the simultaneous massive roads and bridges’ widening as he has listed down the many observations and complaints raised to him during the interview. He appealed to motorists and the public for extra patience.
Sarmiento and regional director Danilo Versola are both new and stranger in Bicol. Versola is from Davao, Sarmiento from Bulacan.
According to Rep. Fernando Gonzalez (Albay 1st Dist), the DPWH is merely on road improvement with the concreting of the 4th lane and bridge widening. He said the widening to a 20-meter road right- of- way cannot be done without removing first the rich and poor squatters that, in many sections of the roads, have encroached the tiny lane serving for pedestrians. DPWH officials claimed that the existing 4-lane roadway is barely 12.4-meter at 3.1-meter a lane.
Local executives complained that traffic congestion are taking so much toll for motorists who question the simultaneous widening of roads and bridges which motorists noted most prominent in the first district of Albay the DPWH has rated as a “model” district. Bicol University students in Legazpi (2nd District) wonder how the DPWH could have the nerve allowing a hundred old culverts dug from the kilometers-long drainage project and merely lined-up for long at the roadside in front the University campus at the risk and discomfort of pedestrians.
Blogger James Bandol criticized the DPWH criteria in giving the “outstanding” award to the Albay 1st District Engineering with its roads rocked by old and ongoing obstructions worsened by the simultaneous road and bridge widening, scouring road sections and potholes. He said a son driving his senior citizen ailing mother to Legazpi from Tabaco suffered a costly experience when his car stepped on a deep pothole in a scouring road section filled with water beside the two close bridge widening projects that smashed his mother face onto the car dashboard. Is this a model district road?, Bandol asked.
Engr. Cesar Sanorjo, chief construction section of the Albay 1st district engineering confirmed, in March his office has bagged the 2017 model award. He refused to elaborate.
District engineers, however, clarified that the rating from the Bureau of Maintenance to be a “model” district was purely based on having a “zero pothole” road as the only criteria. After all, the first district is only maintaining a secondary national road while other districts covers both the primary, national, and secondary roads. They suggested that the criteria to be a model district be amended to cover “clear flow of traffic, complete traffic signages, and regularly manicured roadsides.”
Early this year, parents and teachers at the Lidong Elementary School along the highway of Barangay Lidong in Sto. Domingo town (first district) strongly protested, to no avail, the simultaneous concreting of both road sides, at the same time, uprooting old trees which served as the small pedestrians and students lane.
Rev. Fr. Efren Borromeo, Parish Priest of the Divine Mercy Church at Barangay Lidong called “inhuman” the simultaneous roadsides concreting and uprooting of trees, saying he saw for himself how pedestrians and young pupils pathetically and bravely guiding themselves passing by the side of the busy main 2-lane road as they evade speeding vehicles at their very own risks on the accident-prone Padang – Lidong route.
Former Albay Vice Gov. James Calisin and Jovellar town mayor for 25 years,
Jose Arcangel, 74, claimed that the first district road is prominently getting negative impact from motorists and commuters because aside from the massive road concreting and bridge widening, the road is also a scene of rampant solar drying of palay, worse shielded with big stones from residents and “bigtime” palay traders combined, which the DPWH maintenance crew simply ignore. In addition, the first district is also the known “padyak capital” that freely cruise the national road.
With close to 8,000 units of padyak in Tabaco City alone, the national road is rained by padyaks 24/7, said Calisin who is himself a resident of Tabaco.
DPWH legal officer Oliver Rodulfo explained that many projects at the Albay 1st District are allegedly delayed because a bigtime contractor identified as a congressman infrastructure coordinator continue to reap excessive contracts award with its equipment, manpower and finances unfit enough to handle the magnitude of contracts he reaped region wide. He said the contractor cannot even finish its old airport repair and extension project in Catanduanes.
Rodulfo also claimed that, despite many engineers and employees residing in the first district including the district engineer who commutes daily to its office located in Legazpi (2nd District), scouring road sections with potholes and badly-damaged 4 inches deep approaches in the barely 40-meter asphalted detour route adjacent the 2 close bridge widening projects in Malilipot town are hardly attended.
Mayor Arcangel lamented that, if trees, electric posts, pedicabs, solar drying, road constructions are traffic hazards, I can’t imagine the DPWH engineers could afford to just ignore contractors assembling and manufacturing concrete piles (pilote) and stockpiled on road beside the bridge widening project.
District engineer Simon Arias cannot be contacted for comment. His staff said Arias had long relocated to Legazpi from Tabaco after his son figured in a road accident. [BicolToday.com]