DPWH banks on high-impact road projects in Bicol to make 9-hour 'dream travel' a reality

Published June 25, 2021, 9:45 AM

by Betheena Unite

Opening more roads in the Bicol region is seen as a crucial piece in realizing the nine-hour “dream travel” from the northern part of Luzon to its tip down south before the era of “Build, Build, Build” is over.

DPWH Secretary Mark Villar (first from left) during the opening of the Camalig Bypass Road in Albay on June 15, 2021. In the background is a breathtaking shot of Mayon Volcano. (Photo from Villar’s Facebook)

To date, 1,670 kilometers (km) of roads in the region have been constructed and improved while a total of 295 bridges have already been built.

Under Build, Build, Build, the Luzon Spine Expressway sub-mission was created in a bid to expand the entire island’s road network and reduce the usual 20-hour travel between Ilocos and Bicol to only nine hours.

One of the most recent projects delivered by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the main implementer of the government’s Build, Build, Build infrastructure program, is the scenic Camalig Bypass Road in Albay which showcases a panoramic view of Mayon Volcano.

It is a 3.5-km road that diverts traffic in Camalig, Albay. It became accessible to motorists on June 15, 2021 after almost three years of construction.

Aside from providing a faster and safer route than the congested Camalig town proper road, the P237.44-million bypass road is also expected “to assist in the income-generation of small-scale establishments and farmers in the area”.

“The completion of Camalig Bypass Road is another proof that we are committed to accomplish our major projects across the country before President Rodrigo Roa Durterte steps down in 2022,” DPWH Secretary Mark Villar said during the road’s inauguration.

Other road projects in the Bicol region that have been dubbed as “high-impact” are also under way, with some of them expected to continue beyond 2022.

One of them, the 15.87-km Albay-Sorsogon Connector Road, is set for completion in December 2021. It will reconnect the two national secondary roads– the Legazpi City- Punta de Jesus Road in Albay and Jct. Sorsogon-Bacon-Manito Road in Sorsogon.

Travel time for some 5,000 daily travelers between Manito Proper and Sorsogon City will be reduced to an hour.

The 15.47-km Barcelona-Casiguran Road in Sorsogon is also seen to be finished in December 2021. Travel time between the municipalities of Barcelona and Casiguran will be reduced by as much as 10 to 12 minutes once it is completed.

Another ongoing project is the Cagraray Circumferential Road in Albay. It is a 40.01-km tourism road that will be connected to the Sto. Domingo-Buhatan-Cagraray Island Circumferential Road via Sula Bridge. It is seen to cut travel time from Barangay Cagraray, Pigcobohan, Cawayan and Tambilagao in Cagraray Island going to Bacacay town from four hours to only over an hour once it is finished in December 2022.

The 15.21-km Camarines Sur Expressway is a high-impact that will have to be constructed beyond 2022. It will link the municipalities of San Fernando and Pili in Camarines Sur, reducing travel time between the two places from 51 minutes to only 11 minutes.

Also under way is the 5.66-km Sorsogon City Coastal Road that will divert traffic along Daang Maharlika, Sorsogon City section. Three bridges will also be constructed within the road network.

The four-km Daraga Urban Tourism Eco Route Project, which currently has a progress rate of 37 percent, is expected to be finished in 2023. It is poised to provide motorists with an alternate route within the town proper of Daraga and neighboring municipalities in Albay.

The 40-km Pasacao-Balatan Tourism Coastal Road, which started in 2018, is also scheduled to be finished after the current administration. It will cover the municipalities of Pasacao, San Fernando, Minalabac, Bula, and Balatan in Camarines Sur, reducing travel time from over two hours to only 41 minutes. A total of 13 bridges will also be built within the road.

More local roads such as the six-km Imelda Boulevard in Catanduanes and the 31-km Matnog-Sta. Magdalena-Bulusan Road are up for improvement and rehabilitation in the next few years.

Aside from roads and bridges, a total of 706 flood mitigation structures were also completed in the Bicol region in the last five years. A total of 8,437 classrooms were also built by the DPWH in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd).

As the DPWH reaches its final year of Build, Build, Build, it hopes for the continuity of these projects under the infrastructure modernization program.

During the department’s 123rd founding anniversary on Wednesday, June 23, Villar stressed, “The way to post-pandemic economic recovery is to push for the implementation and completion of high-impact projects in the pipeline.” Build, Build, Build has a total budget of P8 trillion, spanning President Duterte’s six-year term from 2016 to 2022.