Saturday, January 24, 2015

Revisiting the Dantay-Sagada road and calls to probe road works

By Gina Dizon

SAGADA, MOUNTAIN PROVINCE -Cracks along the pavement including scaling and ugly manicures on sections of the rehabilitated works along the multi-million Dantay-Sagada road projects surely explains the reason why no certificate of  acceptance has yet been given by the  Department of Public Works and Highways to repairs done by BMK/ETLatawan, KVC and BLC Construction on their respective road work contracts along this stretch of the national road. And so I came to know from Mountain Province Engineering District Office(MPDEO) district Engr Charles Sokoken.

Otherwise face  consequences of being blacklisted from the roll of registered contractors entitled to bid and be awarded contract projects under the DPWH, said contractors having received directions from the  DPWH have to do remove and replace works within their contract budget or as circumstances  warrant, do correction measures at their own personal expense.

Unless there is a strong convincing reason such as a natural cause that what is defective is not within the contractor’s liability to correct the defect, and it is interesting to know if there is and what is the cause. If there is.  

In the light of this road scenario, concerned citizens wrote a letter to  DPWH Secretary  Rogelio Singson to do an investigation on the multi-million road project  implemented since 2010. 

Glaring  cracks visible along the road just above sitio Dantay are seen on the P48 million road project done by  BMK/ETLatawan who did the road works in 2010 and completed in 2012. Its nearly five years  the given  warranty period and BMK/ETLatawan  is not moving an inch to correct the  defects.  Just pass by this road and see ugly sights including what seems to be buttered black asphalt to correct what is seemingly defective.

So the DPWH and the Department of Tourism  want  to build good, quality roads with international  flavor to be met by contractors who do defective  work  like what is obviously seen along the Dantay-Sagada road. How else can you explain those cracks unless an expert will say that is the work  of the Unseen or a natural cause.

It would note-worthy to  be reminded of the very beginnings of this road in the early 1900s when  American missionary  Engr John Staunton built what then served as the main road to let the riding public  get their way to Sagada where locates the Anglican church  called Church of St Mary the Virgin located in the center of the town. So in recognizance of his pioneering work, the Sanggunian Bayan of Sagada in 2005 passed a resolution which eventually led to the naming of the  national road as Rev. John Staunton road.

Sagada since then became a prime tourist destination, a shangrila of the north visited by backpacker- Caucasians   in the 70s on to the 80s and now frequented by droves of local tourists from Manila and other lowland areas of  the country in the 90s on to the present to get a feel of what is Sagada including its cool air and rich eco-cultural endowments.

Their entrance to this shangrila of the north is none other than through the rugged Dantay-Sagada road  known for its winding and dusty conditions especially during summer season.

The state of the  rugged road since then became rugged as what everyone has experienced, commuters covering their  noses and their  faces from dust that flies to the very insides of busses and  passenger jeeps.

The road remained un-cemented for quite a long period of time  except for  some asphalting in different times of the year before concreting and widening was done in 2010.

Like how funds are finally budgeted and programmed, this goes through pressures of resolutions and lobbying.
Regular funds from the  DPWH went to the improvement of the road  with resolutions from the previous members of the Sangguniang Bayan of  Sagada in 2011 led by former vice mayor Richard Yodong and a joint resolution from the  SB of Sagada and Besao following the unfortunate incident of the  death of Pastor Victor Batcagan and four others in a vehicular accident in 2009. The resolution was then directed to the office of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to release funds for the rehabilitation of said road.

An earlier 20  million peso fund was given by  Bayan Muna plus 2 million from the priority development assistance funds of Senator Francis Pangilinan in 2005  that rehabilitated a 2 kilometer stretch  from sitio Mabbay on to Poblacion terminal.  Remove and replace instructions have  been monitored with the contractor conscious  enough to implement the necessary R and R measures.

Earlier endorsement for the way to be a national road from  regional director of the department of tourism director Purificacion Molintas eventually led to the passage of  Department Order No. 20 issued by former DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr  stating the Dantay-Sagada road is a vital access road to boost the tourism industry of Sagada. So too with the endorsement of the Cordillera Regional Development Council and former Presidential Assistant for Cordillera Affairs Thomas Killip.

And the rest is history with former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo having declared Dantay Sagada Road as a national road during her visit in Sagada in 2008 with some pronouncement of fund support in what led to the initial concreting at the Dantay junction.

From thence,  initial  funds from the regular budget of the DPWH have been poured starting with the  P48 million implemented by  BMK/Latawan followed by P32 million  implemented by  BMK Construction winning the project by a P28 million bid.

A total of  P181 million have already been  programmed and contracted out to cover a 9 kilometer section of the total 13 kilometer Dantay-Sagada road since 2010 to companies namely BMK/ETLatawan, Tarlac-based BMK, Benguet-based KVC, and Baguio-based BLC.

The P7 million  construction of a gabion at the watery curve near Dapdapanan sitio is being done by KVC construction  following a P5 million initial work. The existing work is seemingly waiting for another round of project  funds having stopped momentarily. How this when- will- it- be- finished-contract  shall be finished is a question inviting  anti-corruption  advocates to know if there is something fishy in the road work implementation.

A P7 million peso rehabilitation project is currently being worked on by Bentrix construction involving the blasting of limestone rocks along the road in Antadao covered by a certificate of non coverage (CNC) issued by the regional Environment and Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

The Dantay-Sagada road has unfortunate stories of its own having claimed lives  which either may be  due to faulty breaks or road conditions in the previous years.

The latest is the driver of  Mayor Eduardo Latawan who died when the car rolled down the banks of the Chico river during the time when the road was being rehabilitated  by BMK/ETLatawan Construction sometime in 2011.
Pastor Victor Batcagan and his family were on their way to Sagada last Oct. 31,2009 when their jeep fell down the road killing five persons and injuring 11 others.

Nine passengers of a Besao-Bontoc jeepney died and nine others were injured when the vehicle plunged down a 50-foot ravine along the road at Sitio Pegeo in November 2007.

The driver of the ill-fated jeepney tried to maneuver the vehicle off the very narrow portion of the road while on an uphill climb when it fell down the ravine.

In the same year, engineer Tomas Lawagan bound to Besao fell down the rice paddies towards the river in his Ford Fiera, along the Sagada-Dantay Road.

In December 1996, a Besao- Bontoc jeep fell in the same section of the road where the Batcagan jeep fell which led to the deaths of seven teachers from Besao and injury to 13 others.

Building good roads is a must  and let this be dedicated to the unfortunate victims  who perished along the Dantay-Sagada road which may be either due to human error or to bad road conditions.

Too, building safe and quality roads gives due reference to the efforts of former officials who wanted genuine development reach the tourist town of Sagada and so too with the adjoining municipality of Besao. And so too with President Benigno Aquino 111 flagship call for  Matuwid na Daan.  

Implementing a multi million peso road work just don’t happen. (Mountain Province Exponent, January 25,2015

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