DPWH terminates controversial P1-billion road project

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 19 Jan) – The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)-Davao Region has terminated the controversial P1-billion road infrastructure project comprising a road widening along MacArthur Highway and construction of Ma-a Flyover after encountering strong resistance from the business sector and environmental groups.

Opposing the DPWH’s proposed P1-billion road widening project in Davao City. Photo courtesy of SAVE HERITAGE TREES

DPWH-Davao spokesperson Dean Ortiz told reporters in a teleconference on Tuesday that the agency has already notified Mayor Sara Duterte that the project, which was believed to provide a solution to worsening traffic congestion along MacArthur Highway, will no longer be pursued.

Ortiz said that pursuing the major road project will entail massive work, particularly in the transfer of power lines of Davao Light and Power Company, telecommunication lines, and water pipes of Davao City Water District.

He said several interruptions in basic utilities will paralyze the city.

Citing Guidelines on Termination of Contracts of Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, Ortiz said, “the Procuring Entity may terminate the Contract, in whole or in part, at any time for its convenience.”

He added that the “Head of the Procuring Entity may terminate a contract for the convenience of the Government if he has determined the existence of conditions that make Project Implementation economically, financially or technically impractical and/or unnecessary, such as, but not limited to, fortuitous event(s) or changes in law and national government policies.”

One of Davao City’s congested streets despite the pandemic. MindaNews file photo by GREGORIO BUENO

Last year, Mayor Sara Duterte and other environmental groups opposed the road widening project along MacArthur Highway, which would have cost the government some P400 million, which threatened to cut down 70-year-old trees, mostly Narra (Pterocarpus indicus or Red Sandalwood), outside the Ateneo de Davao University’s Grade School and Junior High School campus to give way to the construction of a lay-by.

The road-widening project, covering Sandawa to Tulip Drive Junction, was supposed to be implemented in preparation for the construction of the P600-million, 1.7-kilometer Ma-a Flyover project this year, Ortiz said.

IDIS and Ecoteneo said that the Narra trees, the country’s national tree, are going extinct and are declared as “endangered” in the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Species as of 2018.

In terminating the project, Ortiz said the agency also took into consideration the concerns raised by the environmentalists.

Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability, Inc. (IDIS) executive director Mark Peñalver lauded the decision of the DPWH to set aside the project, calling this development as a win “for the trees and the environment.”

He added that it pays to be “vigilant and vocal on issues that would defy sustainable development,” saying that continued cutting of urban trees will affect the air quality of the city.

“Davao City has been boasting not only for its water quality but as well as its air quality… Protecting and conserving urban trees help in maintaining the clean air quality that Davao claims to have,” he said.

Peñalver believed that development is not always about economic benefit, and that it must consider social impact and environmental repercussions.

“While we acknowledge that development is inevitable, we remain firm to our position that there is always a sustainable way in doing things,” he added. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)