BAGUIO CITY – The historic 34-kilometer Kennon road will only be opened to vehicular traffic when it will be declared as safe by experts, an official of the Cordillera office of the Department of Public works and Highways (DPWH-CAR) said recently.
DPWH-CAR regional director Engr. Tiburcio Canlas said that it was the central office that ordered the closure of the road to vehicular traffic sometime in June this year, thus, it is also the agency’s central office that is obliged to open the same even if there is a snowballing clamor to at least open the road for the thousands of residents living in various communities along its stretch.
“Kung sino and nagsara ay siya rin ang magbukas,” Canlas stressed while putting the blame on local government units for their alleged inability to prevent the influx of informal settlers in the different communities who have built their structures in geohazard areas and encroached in road-right-of-way.
The DPWH-CAR official vehemently denied the allegations of affected residents that it is giving undue favour to the contractor of the controversial Camp 5 bridge project, saying that the whole weight of the 48-ton girder being assembled on the old detour bridge is not actually being placed into the structure because the same is equitable distributed in all its control points aside from the presence of lifters so as not to burden the old bridge structure.
He claimed that the Camp 5 bridge project will be completed by the middle of February next year while the repair of the Camp 1 and Camp 6 bridges are also being fastracked to ensure the repair of the damaged structures due to the onslaught of the month-long monsoon rains in August and the wrath of Tropical Storm Ompong in September.
Earlier, thousands of residents living in communities along kennon road clamoured for the opening of the road to vehicular traffic even for the people in the area for humanitarian reasons because of the tripled cost of transportation and the daily inconvenience that they are encountering but it seems their appeal fell on deaf ears.
DPWH-CAR insiders disclosed that there had been recommendations that were submitted to the concerned agency officials to at least make sure that the road will be safe for residents when it will be opened but the suggestions of technical personnel were allegedly turned down.
Among the initial recommendations made by technical personnel is to back fill the approaches of the detour bridge and to install sufficient warning signages in the identified critical portions of the road to serve as guide for residents.
Engr. Fay W. Apil, regional director of the Cordillera office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB-CAR), pointed out that there is no truth to the contention that the whole stretch of Kennon road is unsafe, saying that there are only some portions of the road that are considered to be geohazard areas but there are some available engineering interventions that should be put in place to address the said problem.
“The DPWH should embark on a holistic approach to mitigate the danger posed by the identified critical sections of the road. Studies to be conducted to ascertain the necessary engineering interventions that will be put in place should include the required geotechnical assessment,” Apil said.
The MGB-CAR official said that some parts of Kennon road were declared unsafe after the July 16, 1990 intensity 7.9 killer earthquake that jolted most parts of Northern Luzon because the mountain slopes were heavily disturbed that resulted to the occurrence of landslides and rockslides posing a serious threat to the safety of motorists.
MGB-CAR insiders asserted that the DPWH is partly to blame on the current state of Kennon road because when the slopes were able to stabilize, the agency implemented a number of widening projects that again disturbed the slopes that had already stabilized which now continues to pose danger to motorists.
According to the geologists, the DPWH must refraim from implementing projects that eventually result to the disturbance of the already stabilized slopes because the occurrence of rockslides and landslides will surely not be solved and the critical sections will remain as such to the deprivation of the residents of easy access to their houses.
Concerned residents argued that DPWH-CAR officials should not fingerpoint on the responsibility of encroachments to road-right-of-way because it is the said agency that is in charge of supposedly policing informal settlers from encroaching into the road-right-of-way of roads to achieve the maximum width required for such roads to exist, thus, the statements of Director Canlas blaming local officials for the said problem is simply trying to muddle the issue being brought by the people to the fore.
They also challenged the DPWH-CAR to present the documents that ordered the total closure of the road because to their knowledge, there was no formal order that was issued for the said purpose.
Moreover, the current stand of the DPWH-CAR is in contrast to the agreement reached during the previous visit of Public works Secretary Villar where the head of the agency assured them that the same will be opened to residents.
Banner photo by: Joseph B. Manzano