• Road widening of Bicol highways spurs protests

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    LEGAZPI CITY: The Department of Public Works and Highways has began widening roads from 15 meters to 20 meters amid strong resistance from affected property owners.

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    The road expansion covered by the P8.6-billion 2014 infrastructure budget for Bicol would be implemented section by section as negotiations for the road-right-of-way remain a major stumbling block.

    Officials from the DPWH regional office said affected properties would be compensated.

    The road expansion covers the national secondary highway and the Maharlika highway stretching from Sta. Elena town in Camarines Norte to Matnog in Sorsogon, the link to Visayas and Mindanao provinces via an hour long roll-on roll-off voyage. Camarines Norte is the first Bicol province from Manila.

    The Citizen Crime Watch (CCW), however, commented that secondary national roads need not be expanded and what should be prioritized are the road signs and clearing of obstructions.

    DPWH data show that the Bicol DPWH budget of P8.65 billion would cover 247 major projects with the province’s five congressional districts having a P2.4 billion budget for 73 projects, Albay’s three congressional districts P2.388 billion for 33 projects, Camarines Norte’s two districts P1.1 billion for 46 projects, Sorsogon’s two congressional districts P996.4 million for 38 projects, Catanduanes’ one district P891 million for 31 projects, and Masbate’s three congressional districts P840 million for 26 projects.

    According to CCW Bicol chapter chief investigator Romeo Esplana who was a former DPWH Bicol executive, allowing padyaks operate in highways is so dangerous but it has become a normal trade in all Albay districts apparently tolerated by the DPWH.

    DPWH Sec. Rogelio Singson had repeatedly warned regional directors and district engineers to see to it national roads are not obstructed of any objects saying a road shoulder is for pedestrians whose safety are in danger of getting accidents if roadsides are blocked.

    On April 12 last year, Singson issued Department Order 21 a reiteration that banned palay drying and other obstructions in roads for personal gains by citing Presidential Decree 17 the penalty for which is a fine of not more than P1,000 or imprisonment of not more than six months.

    The CCW said not a single violator, however, have been penalized by the DPWH despite the continuing and glaring violations that even bigtime palay traders have joined residents using national roads for palay drying. Violators are not even aware of the penalty as DPWH officials do not disseminate the warnings.

    It’s more dangerous travelling in Albay during sunny days compared to rainy days because of the rampant drying of palay and other products such as corn and copra said the retired policeman.

    Instead of taking action, Albay First district engineer Teodoro Castillo blamed the Land Transportation Office, the police and local government units for not doing their duties and lamemted that the DPWH had no police powers.

    According to Esplana, while the Land Transportation Office, the police and local officials have their respective duties, DPWH is in charges of roads and bridges. He urged Singson to sack Castillo for incompetence.

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