MAJOR road projects in southern Cebu are being delayed by some factors, including the lack of permits to cut trees, said an official of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Central Visayas.
Among these projects are the widening of Cebu South Highway and the bypass project in Carcar City.
“It remains a challenge to implement the projects especially that DENR is bent on not giving us a permit,” said Ador Canlas, DPWH 7 director, after the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) denied their request for tree cutting permits in San Fernando and Carcar City.
The Cebu South Highway project, which has a project cost of P1.2 billion, involves widening the national highway from the City of Naga to Carcar City.
For this year, the National Government approved around P88 million to continue the project. It started in July 2014 and was supposed to be completed in January 2015.
Conservation groups, however, have blocked moves to cut down century-old acacia trees
along the highway.
Canlas said that since funds were appropriated for the continuing road expansion, they agency decided to change their design to remove the need to cut down trees.
For now, they can only work in portions of the highway where there are no trees affected.
A DENR 7 official said it is not their intention to delay DPWH’s road rehabilitation and widening projects.
“As the issuing agency in the special tree cutting permits, we make sure proper processes and procedures, including requirements, are complied with,” said DENR 7 spokesperson Eddie Llamedo.
Llamedo also said that even DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson has required their regional offices to clear with him all road projects where trees have to be cut.
Canlas also admitted they encountered some delays in the Carcar bypass project because
of the acquisition of road right-of-way from property owners.
While the bridge aspect of the project is finished, the agency is still conducting expropriation proceedings to secure some properties included in the project site.
Canlas assured that the project, which is 80 percent complete, will be finished before the end of this year.
Both projects were made possible through the efforts of former congressman Eduardo Gullas of the province’s first district.
Canlas denied allegations the delays had something to do with the earthquake and typhoon Yolanda that hit Cebu in late 2013.
About P243.4 billion has been programmed for roads and bridges nationwide in 2015, out of an infrastructure budget of P562.3 billion. Transport infrastructure is one of four priorities in the Aquino administration’s economic development spending plan for the year.
Since three years ago, road projects in Cebu’s south have had to be reconsidered whenever these included removing trees, particularly “centennial trees.” Under RA 3571, no trees may be cut except for public safety’s sake. Local government officials also need to endorse any project that would require cutting trees.