BONTOC, Mountain Province: About P108 million is required to rehabilitate a portion of the Halsema Highway in Busa, Sabangan town and to repair the Balili Bridge in La Trinidad, Benguet that were damaged at the height of Tropical Cyclone Ompong in 2018.
In La Trinidad, Benguet, the local government said it needed at least P50 million to replace the damaged Balili Bridge alone, particularly below the provincial capitol, for the safety of the public. In total, P108 million would be needed to repair the cut on Halsema Highway as well.
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said strong rains on Sept. 15, 2018 washed away 120 meters of the Halsema Highway and caused a 70-meter deep cut on the road. Also destroyed was the 58-year-old bridge, that nearly isolated Benguet province from the rest of the region.
Almost a year later, the road cut has caused traffic to slow down on Halsema Highway.
From the previous four to five hours travel time from Baguio City to the capital town through the Baguio-Bontoc portion of the Halsema Highway, it now takes six hours because motorists have to pass through the Mabaay-Abatan provincial road.
Ireneo Gallato of the DPWH–First Benguet District Engineering District (DPWH-FBED) said it would not work out to simply rapair Balili Bridge.
“What is needed is the immediate replacement of the old structure that was built in 1961. This was recommended by experts who said that a new bridge must meet standards to handle the big trucks passing through it,” Gallato said.
The 150-lineal meter Balili Bridge has three spans and two abatements built over the Balili River to link the capital town to other towns in northern Benguet.
The Halsema Highway runs from Kilometer 3 La Trinidad, Benguet and passes through the towns of Tublay, Atok and Buguias in Benguet and the towns of Bauko, Sabangan and Bontoc in Mountain Province, and ends in Banaue, Ifugao.
Rep. Maximo Dalog said the documents for the P108-million fund request were now pending with the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) that must act on it for the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) to use funds from the calamity fund of the national government.
He added that the DPWH has included the funds needed for the project under its regular budget for the next fiscal year.