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Bicol’s tragic plight amid road construction projects


RECENT tragedies highlight the ongoing issue of road obstructions contributing to accidents in the Bicol region, with the Philippine National Police (PNP) reporting fatalities, including the children of prominent public works officials, in past incidents.

In a tragic incident on Tuesday (April 16), three individuals lost their lives, and two sustained severe injuries after a utility vehicle collided with a parked truck along Maharlika Highway in Casiguran, Sorsogon. The utility vehicle, carrying five passengers from Quezon province en route to the Visayas via the Matnog, Sorsogon roll-on-roll-off transport, was involved in the accident.

Previous accidents involving the sons of a former assistant regional director, and an Albay district engineer occurred in Sto. Domingo, Albay, and Legazpi City.

Calls for the revival of the Department of Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) road clearing operations, initiated during the Duterte administration, have emerged amidst these incidents. However, challenges arise regarding the clearance of obstructions associated with local officials and lawmakers, given the intertwined nature of district engineers’ appointments and congressional influence.

Reports attribute the success of previous road clearing initiatives to the DILG’s enforcement capabilities, contrasting with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which lacks similar authority.

Retired police colonel Jimmy Silva of Legazpi City reminisced about improvements during the Duterte era under Interior Secretary Gen. Eduardo Ano’s leadership. He noted a crackdown on temporary tarpaulin shelters along roadsides, a practice that has resurged, often bearing the names of LGU executives and lawmakers.

Former president Duterte’s directive to clear roads of obstructions for public and motorists’ safety encompassed various obstacles, including parked vehicles, agricultural activities, and unauthorized structures.

Concerns persist, as evidenced by the indifference of LGU officials in Malilipot town towards buses occupying highway lanes and the illegal construction of concrete waiting sheds by the DPWH, violating Republic Act 917.

DPWH Regional Director Virgilio Eduarte outlined ongoing efforts against road obstructions, including a “text brigade” initiative for reporting issues promptly. Despite progress, challenges remain, with many district engineers citing the exclusive authority of LGUs in penalizing violators.

Eduarte highlighted a 70% completion rate in road widening across four Bicol provinces, excluding Catanduanes and Masbate.

Motorists advocate for the reactivation of the PNP’s highway patrol unit to address traffic violations, particularly concerning motorcycles. Colonel Silva emphasized the importance of penalizing offenders to curb violations, advocating for police patrols to issue penalty tickets.


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