CEBU has the longest stretch of national roads in Central Visayas with poor and deteriorating conditions, according to a survey conducted by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
The agency’s survey is included in the Central Visayas Regional Development Plan (CVRDP) 2023-2028, which tackled several issues including roads in bad condition, traffic congestion and the untimely implementation of various road projects, all of which have impeded the advancement of transportation and mobility within the region.
Within the framework of the region’s socioeconomic development plan, the enhancement of transportation and mobility emerges as two paramount priorities.
“With the economy opening and travel protocols [set for the Covid-19 pandemic] loosening, transportation infrastructure must be of high quality to support growth,” read a portion of the CVRDP 2023-2028. “The idea of ‘more roads for those with fewer wheels’ should drive land transportation development and the implementation of active mobility infrastructure.”
Roads in poor condition
The survey conducted by the DPWH in October 2021 revealed that Cebu had a total of 339.16 kilometers (km) of national roads out of the overall length of 536.45 km in Central Visayas that was in a poor and deteriorating condition.
Cebu had a total of 257.68 km of national roads rated as having a “good” condition, as well as the 317.89 km categorized as having a “fair” condition.
The “poor” and “bad” road conditions accounted for a notable 22.74 percent of the entire length of Central Visayas’ national roads.
Such road segments in question are located along Natalio Bacalso Avenue, extending from Boljoon to Samboan towns; the stretch from Argao to Dalaguete towns, and the road from San Fernando to Carcar City. All of these roads are found in southern Cebu.
The Mactan Circumferential Road from Lapu-Lapu City to the town of Cordova in Mactan Island, along with General Maxilom Avenue, Candido Padilla Street and Salinas Drive to Pope John Paul II Avenue in Cebu City, also exhibited the same poor condition, according to the DPWH survey.
Carcar City Mayor Patrick Barcenas admitted to SunStar Cebu on Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023 that the majority of the national roads passing the city were not in a good shape.
In other provinces of Central Visayas, the DPWH also noted poor condition in road segments of Bohol, Negros Oriental and Siquijor. These areas include Siquijor Circumferential Road in San Juan, Lazi, and Maria towns; Loay Interior Road from Loboc to Carmen in Bohol; and intermittent sections along Dumaguete South and North Roads in Negros Oriental.
As of October 2021, Central Visayas boasted a total length of 2,376.165 kilometers of national roads, with 63 percent of them having already been paved with concrete, while the remaining portion was surfaced with asphalt.
Central Visayas ranked sixth in the entire country in terms of paved roads.
In a separate survey, the DPWH discovered that most of the major roads in Central Visayas surpassed the permissible threshold for vehicular volume as of August 2022.
According to the DPWH Highway Planning Manual, a road section with a volume capacity ratio (VCR) of 0.60 or higher must be widened as soon as possible.
In the province of Cebu, a total of 11 road sections have exceeded the VCR threshold of 0.60. These problematic sections include N. Bacalso Avenue (from Cebu City Medical Center to Shopwise in Mambaling area), Gen. Maxilom Avenue, Escario Street, Sergio Osmeña Avenue and Osmeña Boulevard in Cebu City; Cebu South Coastal Road; Consolacion-Tayud Liloan Road; Pajo-Basak, Marigondon Road and Mactan Circumferential Road in Lapu-Lapu City; and Canduman-Cebu North Road/H. Abellana Street and A.C. Cortes Avenue in Mandaue City.
N. Bacalso Avenue (from Cebu City Medical Center to Shopwise in Mambaling) and Cebu South Coastal Road have registered VCR values of 1.13 and 1.04, respectively.
The CVRDP 2013-2028 further stated that road widening initiatives from 2018 to 2021 have fallen short of their intended target achievements. This shortfall is largely attributed to challenges surrounding the acquisition of road right-of-way (ROW).
“Failure to achieve the road widening target coupled with the lack of mass transport system and growing number of vehicles plying the roads have resulted in the congestion of major road sections in the region,” it said.
Projects in delay
The CVRDP 2023-2028 also noted the prolonged implementation setbacks affecting several vital projects, including the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit (CBRT), Metro Cebu Expressway, Fourth Mactan-Cebu Bridge and Coastal Road, and the Panglao-Tagbilaran City Offshore Bridge Connector projects.
The National Economic and Development Agency (Neda)-Investment Coordination Committee initially granted approval for the CBRT in 2014, subsequently approving a project cost increase in 2017.
However, the course of its implementation has been plagued by controversies. It wasn’t until February 2023, under the administration of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., that the groundbreaking for Package 1 of the three-phase project, slated for completion by December 2023, finally took place.
The delay of Segment 3 of the Metro Cebu Expressway (a 73.75-kilometer highway that will connect Naga City in the south to Danao City in the north), and other regional road projects was attributed to complications regarding ROW.
The other projects delayed by unsolved ROW issues include Fourth Mactan-Cebu Bridge and Coastal Road in Cebu, and Panglao-Tagbilaran City Offshore Bridge Connector initiatives in Bohol.
These projects were projected to substantially alleviate traffic congestion, especially between the Mactan-Cebu International Airport and the Bohol-Panglao International Airport, according to the CVRDP 2023-2028.
The report further said the delays created by ROW issues have extended its negative influence to impede significant flood control projects by the DPWH within the region, adding that the failure to achieve the desired widening of major roads has led to the suspension of these projects.
In 2020, the Supreme Court granted the request of the Regional Development Council in Central Visayas (RDC 7) “to establish special courts in the region to handle expropriation cases for national infrastructure projects,” according to CVRDP 2023-2028.
“This measure, on its own, would not however totally address the ROW problems that dragged implementation of infrastructure projects in Region 7,” it added.
Inequitable funding for local roads
The National Logistics Master Plan of 2017-2022 highlights a notable disparity in funding allocation between national and local roads, according to the Neda 7.
Local roads constitute a significant 84 percent of the total road network in the country, with the remaining 16 percent designated as national roads.
Only 19 percent of these local roads were paved by 2018, presenting a stark contrast to the remarkable 95 percent paving coverage achieved for national roads.
The Neda 7 has pinpointed these challenges to a lack of effective monitoring and insufficient investment by local government units (LGUs) in maintaining and enhancing their local road infrastructure. It said certain LGUs lack comprehensive local road inventories and pertinent data on the current state of their local roads.
Comprehensive master plan
To solve the issues, the RDC 7 urged the DPWH in 2021 to formulate the Central Visayas Road Network Master Plan.
The Infrastructure Development Council of the RDC, through a technical working group, issued a request to prepare the terms of reference for the formulation of this plan.
It said that it intends to use available study and master plans in the upgrade and expansion of Central Visayas’s infrastructure such as Japan International Cooperation Agency’s Master Plan Study on Urban Transport System Development in Metro Cebu and other transport roadmaps.
“The formulation of master plans requires vertical and horizontal coordination, collaboration and cooperation of all concerned government and private stakeholders. The Central Visayas RDC shall spearhead coordination among various stakeholders, and advocate for master planning and convergence programs to effectively address the region’s infrastructure gaps,” CVRDP 2023-2028 said.