Sagada folks divided on new road


SAGADA, Mountain Province — “Study first before deciding” remains the best suggestion arising from the Church of St. Mary the Virgin (CSMV) Vestry, which hosted a multi-sectoral consultation-“workshop” held June 29th in relation to the proposed national road that shall traverse the mission property.

This proposal continues to draw discussion and debate among the villagers, the LGU and the CSMV congregation. The June 29th multi-sectoral activity at the church is part of the continuing effort to find the best option or decision.

As a take off for the activity, the participants “walked through” the proposed site with the DPWH representatives Engr. Manuel Likigan and two others, and Engr. Paul Sapaen of the EDNP Diocese Development Office. The group started from the back of the kindergarten classroom and ended at Ken Geka area.

The site is a natural drainage area of both domestic water and rain water run-off from the mission compound as well as the Patay-Dagdag residential and commercial areas. Two points along this strip (at a residential lot and the Ken Geka area) are noted as areas where huge volumes of water cascade, forming temporary waterfalls during heavy rains. The Ken Geka area is also a wide gap or hole with an almost vertical incline on the mission side. Some locals also pointed out areas that have sunk as a result of the 1991 earthquake, such as the area below the softball grounds.

Soledad Belingon and Patricia Piluden, both homeowners proximate to the proposed road site, testified having noticed in recent years that parts of their backyards’ surface which used to be flat have become uneven. Piluden adds that nowadays, during torrential rains or storms, water floods their backyard. Another local claimed that the septic tank below the EGL commercial building is fractured due to thr earth movement.

Some homes near the EGL building no longer open windows facing the canal due to the foul smell from the sewer. The proximity of the proposed national road, compounded with soil movement, may endanger the structural integrity of the EGL commercial building. This of course may also be a hazard to homes and buildings below the EGL building.

A resident also raised the concern that the new road and the projected traffic it would carry may endanger their homes. To her, the fragile terrain plus the added weight and movement of heavy vehicles (trucks, buses, etc.) on the highway may compromise their homes.

In addition to this, the new road is expected to open up business opportunities in the future. This means that the additional load of structures/buildings, which are similar to what are currently being built along the existing national road from the town hall down to Daoangan, may be built along the proposed road.

In short, the new highway may usher in a change to the present usage of the mission compound as a religious, educational, healing and scenic area that is privately owned but open to and enjoyed by the public to a less safe, public commercial hub.

Vladimir Longid, an architect and native of Sagada, pointed out that many opinions are based on assumptions, experience and sentiment. In order to arrive at the best solution concrete information should be at hand. For one, the actual design and budget allotment for the road should be studied. Other musts are geo-hazard mapping, rainfall & drainage pattern studies, noise pollution, current and projected traffic data and load capacity of the soil for the road and adjacent areas, among other necessary information.

The same studies or appropriate studies, he adds, should also be done for other proposed alternative roads such as the improvement of the existing private road in the mission compound, the Bomabanga-Demang route, and the Mabbay-Kanip-aw-Suyo routes.

These studies shall provide additional or better basis as guide for community decision-making, he says. Whether people reject or allow the new highway through the mission compound, engineers may always provide technical solutions to allay concerns raised by the homeowners or future homeowners whichever site additional roads may be built. It is another thing if contractors follow the standards. The technical solutions that may be provided by engineers also merit support from government. This support may be in the form of policy formulation/ legislation, and the political will to implement them. Without these, he says, all engineering recommendations would be useless and, if ignored, may pose additional hazards to Sagada’s already delicate geologic condition.

The mission compound located in Poblacion, Sagada, currently hosts the church of St. Mary the Virgin, the Saint Theodore Hospital, the Saint Mary’s School, the fire station, multi-purpose cooperative, cemetery, senior citizens building, kindergarten building and various community sports facilities, among others.

As a national highway, the proposed road must be 15 meters wide where 8 meters shall be the road and the 7 meters cover part of the road right of way, if national road standards are met. It is estimated that at least 10,750 square meters of the titled mission property will be appropriated for the road.

To date other pertinent information such as the design or even budget amounts and sources are un-available or uncertain. Government processes are reverse in character as budgets are allocated first and the program of work done next, instead of studies done first, then design, then stakeholder endorsements, and finally the allocation of budgets.

As Hugh Gayman, Municipal Trial Court Judge for Sagada-Besao, stressed, the road issue is not an emergency matter, saying, “Let the studies be conducted and discussions continue.” Former Mayor Killip adds, “No matter if other communities in the southern or northern zones of Sagada favour the road, the villagers of the ancestral domain of which the mission compound belongs to has the say if indigenous practices are worth anything.” However, church processes give the Diocesan Bishop the right to decide or even veto existing vestry decisions.

Until a decision is arrived at by the community, the congregation and the politicos, it remains that traffic regulations such as those done during the Holy Week should be enforced during the tactical periods of heavy tourist arrivals and the regular Saturday market day. #