Monday, January 25, 2016

Bicol gets Php 1.3 B for widening of 33 bridges
By Manilyn Ugalde

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 22 (PNA) -- Motorists have a reason to be alarmed and wary as the Department of Public Works and Highways continues in its massive road widening and concreting since 2013 but its hundreds of two-lane bridges in Bicol have remained narrow, posing great danger to them.

This prompted motorists to ask for the presence of highway patrol troops in the region's national highways to prevent obstructions in roads such as the rampant presence of "padyaks" (foot-pedaled bicycle with a side car) in national roads and palay drying both by residents and traders, which occupies newly concreted roads and pedestrian lanes.

Worse, the palay being dried is barricaded with stones that, they said, could cause accidents.

With an estimated 20 percent already accomplished in road widening to four lanes, the DPWH Bicol budget for 2016 was pegged at a whooping Php19.65 billion, according to DPWH assistant regional director Armando Estrella.

The DPWH widening program, Estrella said, was aimed at a 20-meter concreted national road nationwide.

The DPWH official explained that of the Php19.65 billion budget, however, only Php1.9 billion would be for the road widening-concreting and a total of Php1.3 billion for widening to four-lane of 33 bridges out of the 606 bridges in the region, comprising of six provinces.

According to Estrella, the DPWH was still facing delay in the road widening project, saying many sections whose road sides were still occupied by squatters and other obstructions.

The 33 bridges ready for reconstruction this year are those located only along the Maharlika Highway.

The Bicol portion of the Maharlika highway passes through certain towns in Camarines Sur, Albay and Sorsogon only.

He admitted though that many short two-lane bridges along already- concreted four-lane roads pose danger to motorists.

Col. Jimmy Silva, a retired official of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, said he was traveling from Legazpi City one evening when he nearly hit a barely recognizable three-meter-long two-lane bridge in a widened road in Barangay Bonga, Bacacay town on his way to Tabaco City in Albay's first district.

He said the not-too-visible and unmarked small bridge is sandwiched by the two-lane Bonga Bridge 2 and Bonga Bridge 3, which have an estimated distance of 120 meters only from each other.

The retired BJMP official said he overtook three vehicles in convoy via the vacant and open concreted second lane in the right side after passing Bonga Bridge 2 when he suddenly noticed the presence of a short bridge that his car missed in seconds.

Silva also lashed at both local and national authorities for allowing pedicabs in national highway even during night time, saying padyaks abound from the town of Malilipot to Tabaco City to Malinao and Tiwi towns.

He said that during sunny days, the first district national road also becomes a scene of palay drying that is barricaded with big stones.

He urged the presence of highway patrol troops to stop these abuses in highway roads being neglected by the DPWH.

In 2008, then Tabaco City mayor Krisel Lagman Luistro declared Tabaco City as the padyak capital of the Philippines, with its estimated number of 7,000 units and even sought recognition from the Guinness Book of World Records for this.

With the proliferation of padyaks now operating along national roads, motorists find it rather uncomfortable driving along the highways.

Albay Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda, who is the chairman of the Regional Development Council, has urged Secretary Rogelio Singson to facilitate funding for all two-lane bridges in the region as road widening continues, adding many two-lane bridges in a widened highway road, especially short bridges, indeed pose danger to motorists.(PNA) RMA/FGS/MU/cbd