The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) 3rd Engineering District has asked the City Council to pass a resolution endorsing an alternative route to save the Acacia Tunnel in Barangay Inagawan.
Heeding an online petition calling for the preservation of the existing acacia trees, Matthew Mendoza, chairman of committee on public works and infrastructure, invited DPWH officials to present the six-lane road widening project that that will pass through Inagawan.
DPWH’s Engr. Arthur Torillo told the City Council that the project could hit the century-old acacia trees and will consider the possibility of diverting the road to avoid.
“Sana kung makakahingi kami ng resolution na mag¬e-endorse na maghanap tayo ng pagdadaanan talaga ng kalsadang ito na hindi ganoon kalalaking acacia ang tatamaan namin,” he said.
Torillo stressed that even DPWH also wants to preserve the standing trees.
“Sayang naman kung aming puputulin,” he said.
Manuelito Ramos, senior environmental management specialist of the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (City ENRO), said that “development activities should not compromise the status of the environment, especially in Puerto Princesa.”
Ramos said the City ENRO understands it will be undertaken in the name of development but they hope the importance of those fully grown trees, which absorb carbon dioxide, as one of the benefits they provide, should be considered.
City Tourism Officer Aileen Cynthia Amurao, said the Acacia Tunnel is being eyed by the city government as an ecotourism destination and is included in the city’s masterplan being drafted by the consulting firm Palafox Associates Inc.
She said the tourism masterplan will be presented to the city government in September.
Torillo said that the issue will be raised by their district engineer in their unified regional directors’ meeting on Aug. 24-25.
Unlike the 1st and 2nd Engineering District, Torillo added that construction in the 3rd Engineering District has yet to begin, given that the authority for projects beyond P100-million budget will still be decided by their regional office.
The P30-billion infrastructure project — part of the national government priority program — traverses El Nido town in the north to Bataraza town down south, spanning 600 kilometers of the entire mainland Palawan.
Concerned citizens and civil society groups are wary that expanding Palawan’s national highway from two to six lanes may come at the expense of the environment, as hundreds or even thousands of roadside trees across the province may have to be felled, driving biodiversity loss, among other environmental problems.