LOS BANOS, Laguna: Key officials of the Department of Public Highways (DPWH) here on Thursday said they will work for the total opening of the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) gate to the motorists as part of its efforts to ease the daily monstrous traffic at the junction of this premier municipality.
DPWH District Engineer Joel F. Limpengco said his office will sit down with UPLB authorities to discuss the matter and the need for them to understand that the road, leading to the inner most part of the campus and traversing to other towns and cities in this province, is a national road being maintained regularly by the DPWH.
Limpengco made the disclosure as he defended the DPWH from criticisms that it violated certain government regulations in the cutting of 30 fully grown trees of Kapok and Mahogany to pave the way for the 5.5- kilometer road widening project at the Mt. Makiling Ecological Road in Barangay Timugan here.
The DPWH came under heavy attack for pursuing the P16.999 million worth of infrastructure project that saw the cutting of trees based merely on a permit issued by a Barangay Captain instead of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).
Limpengco conceded that the decision of the DPWH was quite remote to be accepted and would stir sharp reactions from the UPLB community. But, he pointed out, “Hindi na puwedeng gawin yun ng UPLB kasi ang kalsada ay national road [UPLB cannot do it because it is a national road] and one thing, restricting the use of the UPLB road has contributed greatly to the daily problem on traffic congestion particularly during peak hours.”
He made it clear that the UPLB road is included in the mass inventory of public roads by the DPWH, thus the department has the full authority to manage the usage of the road.
For decades, the UPLB has restricted the use of the road from the UPLB front gate, starting at the Mt. Makiling Park road and ending at the exist point of the Boy Scouts Jamboree road which is within the MakilingEcological Road.
First, the UPLB had to require motorists to pay a P5 pass from the UPLB entrance gate before allowing them to enter the campus. Two years thereafter, a new policy was handed down requiring motorists to secure and pay a P150 worth of UPLB sticker that could be used for one year.
The regulated policy aims mainly to secure the interest and general welfare of the institution and its entire community.
Limpengco said his office had advised the Barangay Captain to wait until the DENR provincial office finally had issued a cutting permit. But the local official, invoking the permit he issued proceeded clearing the area, he recalled.
The DENR clearly defined that “the cutting of planted trees within private lands shall be allowed subject to the clearance to be issued by the Regional Executive Director and the cutting of naturally growing trees, including premium species within private lands and those to be affected by the development and government projects shall be allowed subject to the clearance/permit to be issued by the Office of the Undersecretary for Field Operations.”
On February, 2014, the DPWH requested for the issuance of cutting permit but the DENR failed to act immediately prompting the DPWH to allow its contractor to proceed with the project implementation using the Cutting Permit and Certification issued by the Punong Barangay February 13, 2014.