Garcia orders DPWH to stop Metro Cebu Expressway project

Garcia orders DPWH to stop Metro Cebu Expressway project
(Sugbo News)

CEBU Governor Gwendolyn Garcia has instructed the Department of Public Works and Highways Central Visayas (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 DPWH website states that MCE is a 56.9 km 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 Capitol on Wednesday, February 7, 2024, Garcia was presented with a report by Engr. Mary Ann Bueno of the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) that a portion of the project that collapsed in October of last year 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, the chief of the EMB's Environmental Impact Assessment Section.

It can be recalled that in October of last year, 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 had previously stated that 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 landslide.

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

She emphasized 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 the stakeholders, which will now include the mayors and chiefs of the concerned barangays.

The governor'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 among the worries.

Governor Gwen has demonstrated her commitment to safeguarding the welfare and safety of Cebuanos by advocating for transparency and calling for a temporary halt to the project.

This underscores the importance of thorough deliberation and collaboration with all the parties involved.

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

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

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