LEGAZPI CITY—The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) failed to win back its four controversial road projects around Mayon Volcano ordered stopped by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in
October last year.
A cease-and-desist order was issued by the DENR Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) on the four road projects costing P120 million. They were reported to be inside the 6-kilometer Mayon permanent danger zone in the towns of Bacacay, Malilipot, and Tabaco City of Albay’s First District.
A DENR report said the projects, which had intruded into the Mayon Protected Area, did not have the environmental clearance certificate (ECC) and the permit to cut trees needed to continue the project. About 8,000 board feet of cut trees were also found in the project site.
Engr. Venus Anthony Vinas of the EMB regional office said, however, that of the four projects under implementation by the Albay First District Engineering Office, only the road-opening contracts in the village of Barangay Bonga, Bacacay town, was able to comply with the ECC.
Accomplishment of the four road projects was placed at 30 percent when the cease-and-desist order was issued by the DENR, said District Engr. Simon Arias of the Albay First District Engineering during an interview in November last year.
Albay provincial board member Howard Imperial said he received a report the DPWH failed to comply with the ECC requirements except for one project. Imperial added that Malacañang had also stripped the Albay First District Engineering of its budget under the 2018 General Appropriations Act. He said the DENR action and President Duterte’s order concurring Mayon’s permanent danger zone as a no man’s land during his Legazpi visit last February.
“The Mayon road projects reportedly formed part of the P7-billion Mayon circumferential road project, which Party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol described in radio interviews as ecotourism and infra-development.
The Mayon project, however, did not sit well with Albayanos when it was exposed by the Save Mayon Movement as anti-environment and could destroy the natural beauty of Mayon Volcano. DENR officials, as well as the Mayon-based Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvocs) admitted they were not aware of the Mayon projects until they were exposed by the Save Mayon group.
Arias and his construction section chief, Cesar Sanorjo, said they were not aware of the proposed P7-billion Mayon circumferential road project and that they were constructing are farm-to-market roads.
But former Albay Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Marcial Tuanqui criticized the DPWH engineers for feigning innocence about the Mayon circumferential road project. Tuanqui said Arias should have first studied whether or not the project is valid and meritorious for Albayanos and not simply bow to the dictate of political pressures. If not for the vigilance and exposé of the Save Mayon Movement in the social media, the DPWH would have wasted millions of pesos of of taxpayers’ money.
Gov. Al Francis Bichara said that, as chairman of the Regional Development Council, the Mayon project was never passed on to the RDC.
Arias could not be contacted for comment as he was reportedly working for his reassignment with a Camarines Sur district engineer.
In December last year the provincial board of Albay committee on Urban Housing and Land Use, chaired by board member Howard Imperial, had unanimously approved a resolution assailing the Mayon project in support of the DENR action. The Urban Housing resolution also banned any infrastructure projects around Mayon to prevent any human activities in support of Phivolcs’s bid declaring Mayon a “no man’s land.”