Construction of P2.28-B road thru Sierra Madre starts amid protests
CITY OF ILAGAN—The construction of an 82-kilometer road through the protected Sierra Madre mountains will start in December to open access to three coastal towns in Isabela province, despite opposition from environmentalists and leaders of the Catholic Church in the province.
The P2.28-billion project will pass through the foothills of the 359,486-hectare Northern Sierra Madre mountain ranges and will take three years to complete, Isabela Gov. Faustino Dy III said on Monday.
The project will improve an old logging road used by the defunct Acme Logging Corp. until the 1990s. It will start in Barangay Sindon Bayabo here and end in Barangay Dicatian in the coastal town of Divilacan, he said.
Travel to the coastal towns of Divilacan, Palanan and Maconacon is often made by boat or by plane.
“There is no road that links [the capital Ilagan to] the coastal areas, depriving villagers of basic necessities and social services, such as health. Only light planes and boats are the available modes of transportation there, making it difficult to reach the coastal towns in times of emergencies and calamities,” Dy said.
Once completed, the road project is expected to boost the economies of the coastal areas, the governor said, citing Divilacan’s 119-ha beach and freshwater areas that have lured tourists.
The Protected Area Management Board (PAMB) issued Resolution No. 11, which reclassifies portions of the Sierra Madre as a special-use zone.
The Agta and Dumagat in the area have also signed a memorandum of agreement with the Isabela government, expressing their consent to the road project. At least 1,800 Agta and Dumagat have been staying in the park areas.
But the impact of the road on the protected forest has alarmed Ilagan (Isabela) Bishop Joseph Nacua, who feared that the project may damage its forests and ecosystems.
Climate Change Commissioner Heherson Alvarez, a former secretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, has urged Isabela officials to put up safeguards and ensure that the Sierra Madre will be protected while the road is being built.
The project was delayed last year due to concerns about the road’s potential impact on the environment.
Earlier, the Cagayan Valley Regional Development Council required the project’s proponents to study the full impact of the road on the area’s biodiversity.
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