By Francis Allan L. Angelo
OVERLOADED trucks which transport aggregates and materials to the ongoing Iloilo international project at the Cabatuan-Sta. Barbara area are taking toll on two major bridges and roads of Cabatuan town, 24 kilometers west of Iloilo City.
Cabatuan Mayor Ramon Yee revealed they are overly concerned with the weakening foundations of the Tigum and Marcos Bridges at Barangays Tabucan and Amerang, respectively, due to wear and tear caused by heavy-duty trucks.
The trucks are owned by some 30 sub-contractors of the Taisei-Shimizu Joint Venture (TSJV), the contractor of the airport project, who supply sand, gravel and other materials for the construction.
Last Friday, Yee and other mayors from the third district spearheaded a dialogue with the Departments of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Environment and Natural Resources, Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board and the Iloilo provincial government to discuss the problems brought about by the project.
Third district Rep. Arthur Defensor also attended the said dialogue.
Citing the assessment of the DPWH regional office, Yee said the 30-year-old Tigum Bridge has shown structural defects such as cracks in the spans.
The said bridge’s weight capacity also diminished from 27 tons to 20 tons because of wear and tear through time.
A similar observation was noted in the Marcos Bridge due to its shaky foundations.
Yee revealed almost all trucks are carrying as much as 27-30 tons of aggregates “which further weakens the bridges.”
The mayor added majority of roads in his town that lead to the project site are in a deplorable state because of overloaded trucks.
But why overload?
A top municipal official of Cabatuan who declined to be identified said sub-contractors are trying to maximize their deliveries to the project site to cover their expenses for the numerous fees they are paying.
“They have to pay for P600 road-right-of-way fee, another P20 as delivery fee to the provincial government and many more fees aside from their operational expenses. With the rising prices of oil, truckers resort to overloading their trucks to earn more,” the source said.
During last week’s dialogue, Defensor said he might have some problems as regards funding for the maintenance and repair of the bridges and roads in at his district due to the financial crisis besetting the national government.
Although he batted to continue the airport project, Defensor said he does not want the roads and bridges to be sacrificed.
Yee said municipal officials can be held liable if disaster occurs at the two major bridges.
“And we also have to consider public convenience and transportation. Cabatuan is the nearest link of four third district towns to Iloilo City and other parts of the province. If something happens to our infrastructures, we can be held liable and face charges,” Yee said.
To prevent the bridges and roads from deteriorating further, the municipal government of Cabatuan has instituted regulations on trucks passing through his town.
Heavy duty vehicles are only allowed to pass by the Tigum and Marcos Bridges “one at a time” to avert further damage to the said structures.
A weigh bridge has also been installed at the approach of the Marcos Bridge to monitor the load of trucks.
Yee also asked the TSJV to increase its payments for supplies and materials to discourage truckers from resorting to overloading.
He is also pushing for the transfer of the rock crusher plant from nearby Maasin town to an area near the project site to minimize the number of trucks passing through Cabatuan.
Recently, Yee secured authorization from the Sangguniang Bayan to negotiate and enter into a memorandum of agreement with the TSJV to re-route trucks from passing through the town proper.
The TSJV, however, will have to help maintain the roads included in the new truck route since most of these thoroughfares are unpaved.
The alterative route will pass through Barangays Gaub, Duyan-Duyan, Calayo, Tupol and Bacan on the way to Maasin town.
From Maasin, the trucks will pass through the villages of Salacay and Acao to the project site.
Yee said he will meet with national government offices and other local government units in the third district to finalize the solutions to the problems faced by his town.
“We are happy with the airport project but we also have to make some sacrifices to ensure public safety and convenience,” he said.
But the anonymous municipal official lambasted the national government for its lack of forethought in implementing the P6-billion project.
“The national government did not foresee the possible effects of the project on the surrounding communities we fear that the airport will be delayed even more because of this project,” the source said.
Reports from the Japanese contractors said the project has encountered an 18 percent slippage due to bad weather and in delay the arrival of materials and equipment.