ILAGAN CITY, Isabela: With the ongoing construction of the close to P2 billion worth Ilagan-Divilacan road project, the provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (ENRO) assured the protection of the thickly forested Sierra Madre mountain ranges.
Forester Geronimo Cabaccan Jr., Isabela ENRO officer, said the policy and laws on the preservation of the protected areas are strictly implemented.
“We will put up safeguards against illegal activities to ensure that the Sierra Madre will be protected while the road is being built,” Cabaccan said.
He said the 82-kilometer Ilagan-Divilican road, which passes through the foothills of the 359,486-hectare Northern Sierra Madre mountain ranges is now 50 percent completed with at least 37 kilometers accessible.
The project started in March 2016 spanning the barangay (villages) of Cabisera 10 and Sinon Bayabo (Ilagan City) and of Sapinit, Dicambangan, Dicatian and Dimapula in Divilacan town.
According to Cabaccan, at least 654 people were employed by the project contractor, 85 percent of whom were laborers hired from the local community.
“Once the road is completed, it will provide easy access for local villagers and residents in transporting farm products and will link them to basic necessities and social services,” Cabaccan said.
He said that as of June 22, road markers, signages and other protective structures along the entire road length were placed to ensure safety.
Meanwhile, Perla Visoro, chairman of the Regional Multi-Sectoral Forest Protection Management (RMFPM), has expressed concern over the negative effects of the road project to the environment particularly the Sierra Madre areas.
She said that while the project is expected to boost the economies of the coastal areas of Isabela, the road opening is also a threat.
She pointed out that the road will allow easier entry of people from nearby towns and provinces who are into kaingin (cut and burn process) and illegal logging activities.
“I fear that the project may damage the protected areas’ rich biodiversity,” Visoro, a known environmentalist in Cagayan Valley, said.
LEANDER C. DOMINGO