Espinoza: Will the MCE be finished in our lifetime?

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Espinoza Free Zone
Espinoza Free Zone

The work on the Metro Cebu Expressway (MCE) that was started during the term of President Rodrigo Duterte was temporarily halted by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) 7 on orders of Gov. Gwen Garcia due to some environmental and safety concerns.

The MCE was designed to serve as a backbone highway that will provide a fast and smooth flow of traffic from the City of Naga in the south to Danao City in the north, while traversing the mountain ranges of the province. This project is also aimed to address traffic congestion in Metro Cebu, especially its central business districts.

The question that now hangs is will people, and I mean no disrespect, particularly those who are in their twilight years, ever see the project completed? Will they get to experience hassle-free travel from the south to the north and vice versa? Well, we will see it done as soon as the DPWH 7 performs its responsibilities as mandated by law.

In that meeting that Governor Garcia called, she learned from Mary Ann Bueno, chief of the Environmental Impact Assessment Section of the Environmental Management Bureau 7 of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources 7, that a portion of the road that collapsed in October last year did not have an Environmental Compliance Certificate. Pardon me, but are we to understand that the MCE project was haphazardly started without complying first with the necessary, if not the most important, requirement of any road project? Shouldn’t they have conducted soil testing as well as studied the social impact on those affected by the project?

It may be recalled that before President Duterte ended his term, this project was suspended temporarily because of the lack of funds for the acquisition of the road right-of-way. It may sound unbelievable but according to a news report then, some landowners affected by the project demanded a high price even though their lots were not registered, while some did not even have a title.

Governor Garcia’s concerns are, of course, principled, as these involved the safety, the displacement of the communities affected by the project and the possible ecological disturbances along the route. But shouldn’t these matters have already been addressed by the DPWH 7 before starting the project? Their comment is most appreciated.

In that meeting attended by City of Naga Mayor Val Chiong, officials from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau 7 and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), Garcia ordered the DPWH 7 officials to temporarily stop the road works until a comprehensive assessment on the project’s environmental and safety compliance was conducted.

Governor Garcia earlier ordered to stop the road works on Phase 3A in Barangays Inayagan and Cantao-an in the City of Naga after a portion of the road was struck by a landslide last October. She insisted that this part of the road would no longer be practical, especially if the soil quality in the area showed that it was prone to landslides.

The governor asked DPWH 7 Director Ernesto Gregorio Jr. to name the barangays that will be affected by the MCE for transparency’s sake and to inform the affected communities and the local government units about the impact on safety and on the environment.

Garcia will call another meeting with stakeholders that will include mayors and barangay captains. In that meeting, Jica officials who already conducted studies for this project will present their recommendations.

Let us cross our fingers that this road project will be finished and completed sooner than expected so the public can enjoy seamless travel from the City of Naga to Danao City and vice versa. Hopefully, the project will also eventually reduce the volume of traffic in the urban centers of Metro Cebu.

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