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Makiling road project stopped amid protests

/ 12:27 AM August 02, 2014

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna—Work on the road project that became controversial when it led to the cutting of trees at the foot of Mt. Makiling has been suspended in the wake of protests.

The project, called Mt. Makiling Ecological Garden Road, spanned 5.6 kilometers and was designed to provide an alternate route to ease downtown traffic here.

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In February, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) completed the widening of an existing 500-meter road in Barangay Timugan in the initial stages of the project implementation.

At least 19 kapok trees were felled to widen the road, which cost an estimated P16 million.

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Environmentalists and artists’ groups in May mounted protests for fear that more trees would be cut for the road project.

The next phase of the road project would enter the Mt. Makiling forest reserve, according to plans prepared by the DPWH.

But in a phone interview on Thursday, DPWH district engineer in Laguna Joel Limpengco said the road project had been “stopped due to the opposition.”

Also, the budget for the road had not been approved, although it had been proposed for inclusion in the 2015 national budget, he said.

“Should it get approved, we could just realign [funds],” said Limpengco.

Limpengco, however, could not immediately give the proposed project cost when asked by the Inquirer.

Asked what would happen now to the 500-meter widened road, Limpengco said it was now “a white elephant.”

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Officials of the University of the Philippines Los Baños (UPLB), which has jurisdiction over the 4,244-hectare Makiling forest reserve, were also not keen on the Garden Road project, a position expressed during the formation of Mt. Makiling Forest Reserve Stakeholders’ Advisory Council on Wednesday.

The council is a partnership between national and local government units, and UPLB to promote biodiversity conservation on Mt. Makiling.

“I asked them (DPWH) what this road was for. Who requested it? They said no one. I told them they might find it hard to push through with it,” UPLB chancellor Rex Cruz said when interviewed on the sidelines of the council meeting.

Cruz said UPLB had received an official document from the DPWH detailing the Garden Road project.

But he said UPLB would stand by its position “that even if the [road] extension [inside the Makiling reserve] happens, which I’m not sure [it] will, it will go through a rigorous process of consultation and public hearings.”

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TAGS: Laguna, Mt. Makiling, Regions, road expansion project
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