Defensor badgers govt agencies,
LGUs to protect roads, bridges
By Francis Allan L. Angelo
REPRESENTATIVE Arthur Defensor (Third district, Iloilo) virtually played god during the strategic meeting on the deteriorating bridges and roads at his district caused by overloaded trucks carrying quarry materials to the international airport project site at the Cabatuan-Sta. Barbara area.
The meeting was held yesterday at the conference room of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional office and attended by representatives from the Land Transportation Office (LTO), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Taisei-Shimizu Joint Venture (TSJV), and subcontractors of the airport project.
Mayors Ramon Yee of Cabatuan, Mariano Malones of Maasin and Ellery Gaje of Badiangan were also present.
All throughout the meeting, which was meant to come up with measures and policies to arrest the gradual destruction of easements and bridges at the third district, Defensor showed to all present “who’s boss.”
“We must realize that there is present and clear danger to public and private properties if we don’t get our acts together. If we just let other people, who have no concern over our roads, on their own, we will be courting disaster,” Defensor said.
Defensor said he will not “waste a centavo of my pork barrel if we just allow overloaded trucks to trample on our roads and bridges.”
Haulers were compelled to go over the capacity of their trucks to cover their expenses in delivering sand, gravel and basalt to the airport site.
Also during the meeting, the DPWH presented the results of their ocular inspection on the Tigum and Marcos Bridges in Barangays Tabucan and Amerang, respectively in Cabatuan.
In the presentation, government engineers discovered cracks and gaps on the spans, pilots and steel supports of the 30-year old Tigum Bridge which connects Cabatuan to Iloilo City.
The condition of the Marcos Bridge, which links Cabatuan to Maasin, is worse as the footing of its pilot or foundation was already exposed due to erosion.
The footing, DPWH engineers said, was supposed to be buried under the river bed. “But because of extensive quarrying activities near the bridge, sand and gravel that were supposed to cover the footing were eroded by the rushing river.”
With the weakening status of the two structures, the engineers fear that trucks loaded with quarry materials will cause the collapse of the bridges.
And like a father to his children, Defensor told representatives of each agencies present in the meeting to do their part.
The congressman specifically told the LTO to send a team complemented by PNP personnel to monitor trucks passing by the two bridges.
LTO assistant director Eric Lenard Tabaldo said they will implement Defensor’s biddings Monday by putting up checkpoints at the two Cabatuan bridges.
Presently, trucks carrying 20-ton load can only pass through the said bridges one at a time on a 20-kilometer-per-hour speed.
Defensor also told the DENR to monitor quarrying activities at the Tigum River to prevent further damage on the two bridges and to look for ways to reduce the fees in securing quarry fees exacted on haulers.
He also told the environment department to inspect and ascertain the permits and status of the rock crusher plant in barangay Caigon, Maasin.
Defensor wanted the plant to be transferred either to Sta. Barbara or Cabatuan to minimize the number of trucks passing through the Marcos Bridge.
“These overloading trucks get heavier if loaded with crushed rock. And that will surely weaken our only link to Maasin,” Defensor said.
Defensor warned the DENR officials of the dire consequences that will come their way if they don’t heed his order.
“The DENR must act on this in any legal way. You will visit and inspect the rock crusher, make a report and decide. If you don’t act on this, I will immediately complain to the Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources. And if the DENR secretary (Michael Defensor) does not make a recommendation, I will report directly to the President. He is my nephew and I am not afraid of him. I am not afraid of any king for the sake of public safety,” Defensor said.
The Ilonggo solon also told the Sangguniang Bayan of Maasin to pass a resolution urging Mayor Malones to withdraw the business permit of the rock crusher.
However, Mayor Malones was a bit resistant to Defensor’s desire to relocate the rock crusher plant as “we might lose millions of pesos in taxes.”
“We will discuss this matter with the Sanggunian. We also want to follow the wishes of the good congressman but we also have to consider the welfare of our town,” Malones said.
Defensor also asked the TSJV to sit down with the haulers and discuss the possible increase in the rate per cubic meter of the aggregate materials delivered to the site.
Engr. Jaime Buzon of TSJV said they are willing to negotiate the price of the quarry materials. At present, the Japanese contractor pays P300 per cubic meter of aggregates delivered by the haulers.
“This problem can be addressed easily as we have been cooperating with the national and local governments,” Buzon said.
The BIR will also invite the haulers and TSJV to discuss their tax payments and ease the expenses of the former.
After the meeting, a memorandum of agreement will be drafted and signed by the concerned government agencies.
Defensor further warned each agency to fulfill their roles immediately.
“Let’s forget about profit and business. We must make some sacrifices. We cannot allow those who want to fatten their pockets with money from the airport to destroy our roads and bridges. I will re-align part of my pork barrel intended for other project to the repair and maintenance of our deteriorating thoroughfares. Now you must do your part or else disaster will fall us,” Defensor said.