Garcia halts MCE project amid concerns

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia
Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia File photo

GOV. Gwendolyn Garcia has instructed the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH 7) to temporarily stop the construction of the Metro Cebu Expressway (MCE) project until a thorough evaluation of the project’s environmental and safety compliance can be carried out, in an effort to address growing concerns about the project.

The MCE is a 56.9-kilometer highway that runs across the mountain ranges of Cebu, connecting the cities of Naga in the south and Danao City in the north.

It provides an alternate route via a north-south backbone highway.

During a meeting at the Provincial Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024, Garcia was presented with a report by engineer Mary Ann Bueno of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) that a portion of the project that collapsed in October 2023 was not given an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC).

An ECC is a document issued by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that certifies that a proposed project has been reviewed and found to comply with environmental laws and regulations and that all management plans are in place as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment, according to Bueno, chief of the EMB’s Environmental Impact Assessment Section.

It can be recalled that last October, landslides occurred in parts of the project’s Phase 3A in barangays Inayagan and Cantao-an, Naga City, prompting the governor to order a halt to the project’s ongoing construction.

The governor previously said the affected areas could not be viable for the project anymore, drawing comparisons to Ayala Heights in Busay, Cebu City, whose soil quality is also prone to landslides.

Garcia also requested DPWH 7 Director Ernesto Gregorio Jr. to reveal which barangays will be impacted if the project continues.

She noted the significance of transparency in informing the public and the local government units about the project’s possible effects on public safety and the environment.

In order to evaluate how the project will go ahead, she will convene a second meeting with stakeholders, which will now include the mayors and chiefs of the concerned barangays.

Garcia’s intervention occurs amid mounting concerns about the ambiguity around the project’s parameters and possible consequences.

Communities being uprooted and possible ecological disruptions along the proposed route are also among the concerns.

Representatives from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, and City of Naga Mayor Val Chiong attended the conference.

The JICA representatives, who have already carried out studies for the project, are expected to offer their recommendations. / PR

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