BAGUIO CITY—The tourist town of Sagada in Mt. Province has asked Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson to stop the bidding for a tourism road project that was supposed to shorten travel to its most visited caves.
A resolution passed by the Sagada town council questioned the Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) decision to change the plan for the road project because it now follows “a nonexistent route” to the caves.
The resolution is one of many town measures that were passed to challenge DPWH’s infrastructure plans for Sagada.
Sagada Vice Mayor Richard Yodong said the proposed Sabangan-Sagada road via Barangay Balili (Bontoc) would remove from the main road (the Baguio-Bontoc section of the Halsema Highway) that leads to the capital town of Bontoc, and would pass through an existing provincial road situated within the town of Sabangan, Sagada’s neighbor.
By improving this provincial road, the proposed route would provide quick access to the Balangagan Cave, the Pongas Falls and then to the Sumaguing Cave, the most popular tourist spot of Sagada, Yodong said.
To reach those caves today, tourists motor further down the Halsema Highway to the road leading to Sagada.
Yodong said the proposed 8.5-km road shortcut to the Balangagan Cave through Barangay (village) Balili provides a second access route to the caves. The route was developed by the Department of Tourism (DOT) as part of its initiative to finance infrastructure projects that benefit tourism hubs or destinations.
But the Sagada council wanted the project stopped, after discovering that the DPWH had changed the road plan to the Sagada caves via a Sabangan village called Madepdepas that would be a lengthier stretch of road compared to the route proposed by the DOT.
Yodong said the DPWH’s version of the road project would also require the government to build a bridge over the Inakang River to connect to Barangay Taccong in Sagada and complete the route to Sumaguing Cave.
On Nov. 26, Purificacion Molintas, DOT Cordillera director, wrote the DPWH Cordillera office about her agency’s site validation of tourism road projects approved or proposed for 2013 that supports Sagada’s version of the road shortcut to the caves.
On Friday, Constante Sarmiento, DPWH Cordillera maintenance division chief, said Sagada’s complaint has reached the agency but noted that postponing the work now may mean a big delay because of a poll ban on public works projects that starts in February 2013. He said the agency is awaiting feedback from Singson. Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon