EDITORIAL: Highway Gardening

IF YOU think that gardening is only for plants or vegetables in homes or in commercial farms you are dead wrong. It is also true in roads, even in national highways. But the gardening is not by growing shrubberies or flowers but by round the year re-blocking of the national highways.

For people who are not from Bicol, the Rolando Andaya Highway (also known as Quirino Highway) is a national primary freeway stretching partly or in full from the provinces of Quezon, Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur. It covers some parts of the municipality of Sta Elena in Camarines Norte and Tagkawayan in the province of Quezon and traverses the municipalities of Sipocot, Lupi, Ragay, Del Gallego in the province of Camarines Sur.

The highway was created through Presidential Decree 774 by former President Ferdinand Marcos. It was planned to be the shortest way to Naga City from Calauag in Quezon province by-passing the circuitous route via Camarines Norte. It was first opened in 1984, closed intermittently until its complete opening in 2004. It covers about 100 kilometers from Calauag in Quezon to Naga City. Ideal travel time in the distance could cover less than one hour under ordinary road conditions.

Ro-Ro travelers along the Maharlika highway from Mindanao to the North, especially at night, will automatically know that they are already in Camarines Sur when their vehicles reach the provincial boundary. If you are riding in a car the highway becomes a zigzagging maze of bumps and potholes. If you are in a bus the road powers a roller coaster ride that passengers should better take hold of their luggage overhead; otherwise, they fall and create bumps on their heads.

The cause is the never ending and year-round repair and maintenance by the DPWH and its private contractors. The re-blocking engineering is a continuing, almost regular cycle of activity that takes place from end-to-end of the long stretch of the highway. It’s like gardening that is done based on seasons. Once some part is done at the end another part will be started at the other end or somewhere in between and nobody provides any explanation for the meandering government job. Even without financial analysis ordinary citizen knows and is asking in silence how much money is being spent for the highway gardening, and why the upkeeping never ends.

This engineering phenomenon must have a valid answer, someday, somehow; otherwise, the Andaya highway may become a prime topic in a new journal theme of “See it in the Philippines.” RRB