DPWH stops road clearing within Romblon protected area
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Romblon province has suspended the clearing operations for a road project on Sibuyan Island after nongovernment organizations (NGOs) raised environmental concerns affecting Mt. Guiting-Guiting Natural Park.
The Bayay Sibuyanon Inc., The Climate Reality Project Philippines and a group of concerned citizens said the 3.8-kilometer concrete road, also known as the Magdiwang-San Fernando Cross Country Road, will partly traverse Mt. Guiting-Guiting, a declared protected area in Romblon.
It is one of the eight national government infrastructure projects in Romblon with an allocated budget of P95 million under the General Appropriations Act (GAA) of 2018.
Roger David, DPWH Romblon assistant district engineer, confirmed that the contract was awarded to Sunwest Construction and Development Corp.
The NGOs and a group of concerned citizens sounded the alarm over this project in March by launching a signature campaign after residents reported seeing road clearing operations at Barangay Jao-asan in Magdiwang town.
They said there was no feasibility study done for the project.
Mt. Guiting-Guiting, they said, serves as a “carbon sink” (an area that absorbs carbon from the atmosphere) and contributes to climate change mitigation. Its watersheds also supply water to a minihydro power plant in Sibuyan.
“We have no problem with the fact that the road will be beneficial (to Romblon’s access and economy). What we are looking into is the legality of the project,” said Bayay chair, Rodne Galicha, who also sits in the Regional Development Council of Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon, Palawan).
In his March 9 letter to Bayay, Napoleon Famadico, Romblon district engineer, said the agency had already “stopped/suspended” the advanced work or clearing operations of the contractor.
Famadico said the project did not require a feasibility study since it was included in the GAA.
“The road will not traverse the protected area of Mt. Guiting-Guiting as it will not follow the existing logging road but will traverse a new alignment avoiding the protected area,” he said.
“When completed, we are planning to convert this into a national road that will serve as the only cross country road of Sibuyan Island,” Famadico said.
David, however, said some 1.6 km of the road would traverse Mt. Guiting-Guiting.
“If we cannot (fulfill) the full length (of the project), might as well ’wag nang ituloy (discontinue it),” David said in a telephone interview.
The Protected Area Management Board of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, in a meeting with local officials and residents on April 12, said it would allow the road construction, as long as it would not touch the protected area.—MARICAR CINCO
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