Over 15,000 infrastructure projects have been built across the different provinces of Central Luzon in the past five years as part of the Duterte administration’s mission to spur countryside development.
From 2016 to 2020, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) completed the construction, maintenance, widening, upgrading, and rehabilitation of a total of 2,438 kilometers (km) of road and 489 national bridges scattered in the provinces of Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, and Zambales.
“The DPWH has been working 24/7, even in the face of this pandemic to finish all projects committed under the ‘Build, Build, Build’ program following the instructions from the Chief Executive to meet our target before he [steps] down as the country’s 16th President,” DPWH Secretary Mark Villar said.
The partial opening of the Central Luzon Link Expressway (CLLEX), which connects Tarlac and Nueva Ecija, will take place on July 15.
“Despite work slowdown due to the pandemic, the first 18-kilometer segment of CLLEX will be of service to motorists from SCTEX/TPLEX connection in Tarlac City up to the intersection of Aliaga-Guimba Road in Aliaga, Nueva Ecija this July 2021,” Villar said.
The new expressway will form a key east-west link for the expressway network of Central Luzon and ensure continuous, seamless traffic flow for the motoring public coming from Metro Manila and vice versa.
The Pulilan-Baliuag Bypass project, which is one of the projects being implemented in the region, was even nominated as the Philippine’s entry for the MINO Best Project Award – Community Road Category of the Road Engineering Association of Asia & Australasia or REAAA in 2020. It was specifically cited for its “social effectiveness and impact, environment-friendliness and technical excellence.”
Among the completed infrastructure projects in this part of the country is the P1.4-billion, 44.28-km Bagac-Mariveles Diversion Road in Bataan. Began in 2013, the road was opened in December 2020. It interconnects the two biggest freeport zones in the country – the Authority of Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB) and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).
This diversion road allows local traders, like the dried seafood vendors in Bataan, to transport their goods from Bagac to Mariveles within just 45 minutes compared to the previous one-and-a-half hour ride.
The 84.68-km Capas-Botolan Road is now 27 percent finished as of June 2021. Aimed for completion in 2024, it involves the construction of 15 bridges with an accumulated length of 2,715 lineal meters.
This road is seen to link via east-west lateral alignment Capas, Tarlac and Botolan, Zambales, providing travelers an estimated travel time of only one hour and 30 minutes–way shorter than the previous four-hour journey using the normal route via Dagupan in Pangasinan or the McArthur Highways and SCTEX. The project started in Olongapo-Bugallon Road (OBR) in Zambales and will end at the Manila North Road in Tarlac.
The 36.95-km San Jose-Palauig Road, which is expected to open in 2022, is a P2.34-billion multi-year project that will connect the towns of San Jose in Tarlac and Palauig in Zambales. It is seen to hasten travel and commerce between the two provinces as well as greatly benefit the tourism industry.
The Lubao-Guagua-Minalin-Sto. Tomas Bypass Road, which is now 64 percent complete, “is undergoing full-blast construction,” according to the DPWH. It is a vital road component of the Pampanga Megalopolis Masterplan or the 50-year comprehensive development plan of the province.
Underway are Phase 2 of the Ciudad de Victoria Interchange Bypass Road in Bulacan, which extends the existing Phase 1 from Manila North Road to New Bocaue Municipal Hall, Philippine Arena to Marilao; and Bocaue-Sta. Maria Bypass Road. Phase 1 of this project, which costs P260.8 million, was formally opened in November 2019 in time for the Philippine’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games. The opening ceremony was held at the Philippine Arena. It includes the 500-meter road and 81-meter overpass bridge crossing the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX).
The widened 2.2-km Plaridel Bypass Project Phase III that bypasses the Philippine-Japan Friendship Highway is set for opening later this month. It covers the construction of two additional lanes of the Angat Bridge and widening of underpass, drainage, and other related works. It is funded by the Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to the tune of ¥9.399 billion.
Nueva Ecija saw the opening of the P123-million Luyos-Buliran Bridge in San Antonio town in May 2021. This two-lane structure has cut down the travel time from 60 minutes to only 15 minutes. With this, residents of the two rural communities no longer need to pass through the circuitous route traversing the bridges of Sta. Isabel in Cabiao and San Isidro to transport their produce to market centers.
In Tarlac, various bypass and access roads leading to New Clark City (NCC)–dubbed “the vision of a modern Philippines”–are currently being constructed.
The NCC was planned to have an integrated transport system, hence the ongoing construction and improvement of the Manila North Road to SCTEX Luisita Access Road (San Sebastian to Balete). The Tarlac City Southwest Diversion Road McArthur Highway to NCC via Kalangitan Access Road, and the NCC to Tarlac-Zambales via Kalangitan Access Road are necessary to ensure seamless travel in and out of the NCC.
In May 2021, the department opened the P241-million MacArthur Highway to NCC via Kalangitan Road, Package II in Capas, Tarlac. Began in 2019, it was one of the projects under the Construction/Improvement of Access Roads Leading to Declared Tourist Destinations in the province.
Meanwhile, the construction of the P400-million access road from MacArthur Highway to the Tarlac-Zambales Road via Kalangitan in Capas, Tarlac, also began in 2019, is now in full swing. It is expected to be completed on December 28, 2021.