IN a span of one year, I have written five articles on the issues concerning Baguio City and its environs. It started with the “Issues on Degradation of Baguio” (MT, 31 May 2014) to which former President Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) promptly responded to since he was mentioned in the said article. In our meeting, FVR clarified what happened during his term and this was discussed in a \subsequent article (MT, 14 June 2014).
I was in Baguio last week to take a short break and there seems to be no end to the saga of issues in the favourite summer capital of the Philippines. From the worsening traffic and air pollution to the suffocating congestion of what is supposed to be a mountain resort city high up in the Cordilleras.
Of course, what aggravates the situation in Baguio and the towns of La Trinidad, Itogon, Sablang and Tuba (BLIST) are the never-ending projects of the Department of Public Works & Highways (DPWH) that are apparently conceived in sin. These public infrastructure projects, as pointed out in the past articles, are not even needed and poorly- implemented by the DPWH and their dubious favoured contractors.
Residents of the BLIST area in Benguet province, as well as visitors to the country’s summer capital, can only shake their heads and wonder why DPWH indulge in such acts of insanity.
One thing for sure is that the present-day INSANITY of the DPWH projects would NEVER have happened under the administration of former President Ramos, who has a civil engineering degree from the US Military Academy in West Point, New York. He would have either lambasted and/or fired the incompetent DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson.
Saga of DWPH insanity in Baguio
Let us begin with the Kennon Road that starts at Camp 1 in Tuba, Benguet and ends at Baguio City. In spite of the hundreds of millions of pesos spent by the DPWH in Benguet province that includes Baguio, the 33-km highland national highway has not been fully paved after five years of the Aquino Daang Matuwid.
You would expect that Camps 1, 2 and 3 in Tuba would been paved with asphalt as part of its regular maintenance program. However, they have NOT done it in the past five years. Instead of doing simple asphalt-overlay on the pavement, the DPWH under Secretary Singson prefers the more expensive and unnecessary “REBLOCKING” that leads to bigger project costs that benefit both the contractors and officials of DPWH.
What has been done is the shameless REBLOCKING starting at Camp 3 in Tuba, Benguet, instead of asphalt-overlay after doing minor repairs on the pavement. Secretary Singson and his Undersecretary Romeo Momo (in charge of Regional Operations) could not care less if their shameless projects caused traffic along Kennon Road. My family and I have been victims of the traffic standstill caused by the on-going construction of DPWH.
About a month ago, there was a landslide along Kennon Road (Camp 6) that was reported in the national newspapers. When we went up to Baguio last week, the repair work had not been finished in three weeks. Not even 50 percent completion! Yet this could have been done and over by now if repairs had been done by a private sector contractor.
The WORST part is that neither the DPWH contractor nor the District Engineer put even just compacted sand and gravel on the lane where the cars would pass. Thus, with only the soil on earth, it became muddy and made the vehicles crawl to a speed of about 5 kms per hour or less. This caused the traffic jam along Kenon Road last week.
Just what kind of contractors do the DPWH have in the Cordillera Autonomous Region (CAR)? The DWPH contractor that did the REBLOCKING adjacent to Baguio’s only flyover really did such a lousy job. After tearing down the concrete pavement and concreting it again, they covered a section with asphalt to hide the defective work. Even the repair work on the pavement at the flyover’s approach used asphalt instead concrete
In my column of April 12, I exposed the never-ending insanity of the DWPH in the summer capital with its REBLOCKING projects. The DPWH demolished one lane of Quezon Hill Road 2 and one lane of Mallare Road on the left side. Looking at the remaining lane of Quezon Hill Road 2, it is obvious that what the DPWH demolished was a well-paved road with asphalt overlay on top of concrete.
Yet the favorite national government agency of PNoy would not do what it is supposed to do. For instance, Magsaysay Avenue should be WIDENED to efficiently connect Baguio City to La Trinidad and ease the traffic congestion. It should be a continuous four-lane highway with sidewalks on both sides for pedestrians.
However, after more than five years of the Aquino administration with billions of pesos spent on public works in Metro Baguio or the BLIST region, Magsaysay Ave. has not been completely widened until today. Yet DPWH is giving priority to REBLOCKING that exacerbates the traffic situation. It is truly amazing how DPWH cannot come up with a “Right Project,” despite claiming to practice the “5 Rs.”
Likewise, instead of doing simple asphalt overlay along the Baguio – Bontoc Road in front of the Benguet State University (BSU), the DPWH prefers to do REBLOCKING! The DPWH has a project there worth P44,848,444.84 for the “Widening with Drainage & Reblocking on Poor & Bad Sections along the Baguio-Bontoc Rd.” although there are no known flooding issues in front of the BSU campus. Amazing !
Why can’t DPWH prioritize the widening along Magsaysay Ave. so that it would become a continuous four-lane national highway linking Baguio and La Trinidad? Simple!
The P44.85 Million project was started on Feb. 13, 2015 and was supposed to be completed by August 13, 2015. I forgot to check on its status last week during our short visit. However, it is a short highway of only about one kilometer (less than 1.0 km at K0255 +380 – K0256 + 172). So why should it take six months to finish it?
DPWH is now installing new drainage along major roads in Baguio that are not needed like in Leonard Wood Road and others. They are not needed because the existing drainage systems are still functioning. But DPWH has demolished sidewalks and removed the existing concrete pipes (600 mm or 2.0 ft in diameter) only to replace them with a bigger diameter pipe (900 mm or 3.0 ft) that is not needed.
The topography of the Leonard Wood and other roads will make the rain-water flow down the slope of the roads and NOT to the sides of the roads where the new concrete pipes are being installed. In short, the new drainage pipes will be lucky to catch 20 percent of the rainfall that will flow to the gutter and into the drainage grates of the curb.
It would be interesting to ask the DPWH for their scientific basis or justification. For sure, the DPWH District Office and/or DPWH-CAR did not even undertake any forensic investigations to justify the INSANITY with their projects. “Forensic investigation” refers to the determination of the cause of the problem and the solution(s) address them. There was NO Problem to begin with!
Rick B. Ramos at firstname.lastname@example.org