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Land woes stall Halsema rehab

Friday, June 11, 2010 [ ]
By JM Agreda

EVEN if community leaders are already intervening, landowners who will be affected by the rehabilitation of Halsema highway are still not giving up their lands.
Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Assistant Regional Director Alexander Castaneda said the agency is doing its best to complete the rehabilitation of the Halsema highway, the so-called aorta of the Northern Luzon Agricultural Quadrangle.
"These farmers don't want to give up their land they claim was as handed down to them for generations. But we cannot do away with development, thus we have to catch-up," DPWH construction head Nerie Bueno said.
Bueno said, based on her recent travel to the projects of the DPWH in other regions, she noticed Cordillera Administrative Region is already lagging behind other regions, which have been allotted multi-billion peso projects.
The only problem the DPWH is facing are the final talks with locals explaining to them the importance of the completion of Halsema highway in reducing travel time in the Cordillera and Cagayan Valley region, Castaneda said.
The North Luzon Agricultural Quadrangle was a project of the Department of Agriculture in linking top agricultural producers to centers of trade and commerce by putting up road networks and airports to bring in vegetables, rice and other produce to capitals and reduce farm gate prices.
Castañeda, meanwhile, expressed his appreciation to other landowners who gave in to demands of the DPWH because of their understanding of the importance of road networks in bringing most of their produce to trade centers in the Cordilleras and Luzon.
As of this posting, more than 91 percent of the P5.248 billion rehabilitation project of the Halsema Highway has been completed.
The DPWH said segment of the Halsema highway, which connects road from Bontoc, Mountain Province to Tabuk, Kalinga all the way to Tuguegarao, Cagayan will be carried through by President-elect Benigno Aquino III's administration as there are still many road issues that need to be ironed out.
As Halsema plays an important role in bringing highland vegetables to many parts of the country, Benguet First Engineering District Engineer Alberto Gahid said the DPWH clearing and maintenance team is on a 24-hour duty in guarding the landslide-prone parts of the highway.
"Our team are ready any time to clear out rocks and soil washed done by heavy rains especially during the forthcoming typhoons so basic services will not be stopped and the delivery of goods will not be disrupted," Gahid said.
Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on June 12, 2010.

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