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WICKED WINKS: Cry like a baby!

Every single year, DPWH carries out road repairs and “reblocking” in almost the same portions of the Bicol South Road. Most annoying of which is the del Gallego-Sipocot road segment supposedly repaired not too long ago, but has deteriorated once more and now just a stretch of fragmented road. In some parts, small and big vehicles alike crawl to a speed slower than a guy walking in traversing the cracked roads. Worse, when an opposite traffic gets the priority lane in a one-way “reblocked” portion, travelers get stalled for hours during peak season and special holidays. But of course, DPWH will blame the 16-18 wheeler mammoth trucks with their heavy loads and the congestion of provincial buses that pass through this route as the culprit in the worsening of the road condition. For comparison, SLEX (South Luzon Expressway) is a network of several road bypasses used in going to Calamba, Laguna Batangas, Rizal and Quezon (Calabarzon) and one highly urbanized City, Lucena. It definitely lugs larger traffic in terms of density and load factors than the del Gallego-Sipocot road segment—the length of both are almost the same. The last rehabilitation of the SLEX was in 2006 (It used to be called South Super Highway)—twelve (12) years ago today. It never had any major repair, or a big-scale “reblocking” done, but the road remains pristine as if constructed recently. Its counterpart, the del Gallego-Sipocot segment is completely the opposite. It is constantly under repair. DPWH might point their finger next on the soil erosion as one of the factors in the road degradation. Sure why not? But, can’t they think of any other way than just continually conducting repairs on the same road, year after year? This soil erosion anomaly, if indeed true in that road segment, surely has a solution. It is not unique a problem at all. A fundamentally sound bearing capacity design capable of handling a wide range of climatic conditions, plus a truly specs-adhered construction are essential to a well built and robust road. A poorly constructed foundation likewise, causes cracks and tilting on roads and buildings—DPWH knows all these best. However, the practice of repairing the cracked surface or doing “reblocking” using the same foundation specification on the same unsettled road is like applying a band-aid solution to a serious and deep wound, which requires necessary stitching to stop the bleeding. DPWH engineers use the same international standards for road construction as their counterparts in Western and neighboring countries where pave roads are guaranteed to last longer. Ours though last just before the next election, or before the third year comes after construction for a timely release of supplemental budget for another round of repair and maintenance work, hurrah!! Contractors in other countries guarantee their roadwork for up to 25 years using the same road specs as ours—meaning, they are bound to repair at their own expense any noticeable anomaly on the road condition within that warranty period. Ours has no guarantee. The only guarantee given by our contractors is the “S.O.P.” for distribution to the crocodiles in the government. Sadly, hundreds of millions if not billions of Pesos have been wasted after years of non-stop repairs and “reblocking” on the del Gallego-Sipocot road segment, which persists until this day. The money spent undoubtedly is more than enough to construct a SLEX-like four-lane road, or even a new replacement route where it would be cheaper to maintain in the long run. But, somehow this inveterate project of perennial repairs and “reblocking” is such a lucrative business, which is really a hard habit to break. Meanwhile, the Naga airport expansion in Pili has been put on hold because of political intramurals. The reconstruction and modernization of Bicol Express-South line of the PNR is on the back burner just the same waiting for contingency of funds. With the Bicol South Road’s horrendous condition, we Bicolanos have no recourse, but cry like a baby!

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