The planned construction of a 6-lane super highway through mainland Palawan has come under fire from civil society groups and concerned citizens.
An online petition launched at www.change.org has gathered an initial of 1,000 signatures calling specifically for the preservation of the so-called Acacia Tunnel in Barangay Inagawan, Puerto Princesa City.
The area, a popular landmark and a proposed tourist attraction being eyed by the City government, features a row of acacia trees on both sides of the national highway, with joined canopies that blanket the road.
“There is a strong possibility that millions and millions of ancient trees in Acacia Tunnel would be hit… there are various ways on how to protect the Acacia Tunnel, not just for us but for our future generations,” the petition stated.
The P30 billion road project being undertaken by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DWPH) was recently started in portions of southern Palawan.
“One way is to shift the superhighway; create a tunnel in that area or build a high bridge similar to the MRT and other bridges in large cities all over the world. Or they could find a practical but brilliant solution to avoid the destruction of Acacia Tunnel,” the petition added.
Earlier, the Palawan NGO Network Incorporated (PNNI) expressed opposition to the road expansion.
“We don’t need it; and even if we did, it is not exempt from an ECC and SEP clearance, considering there are hundreds of roadside trees that will be affected. At best, four lanes can be acceptable, any above that is simply and obviously money-making,” PNNI Executive Director Atty. Bobby Chan said.
“Huwag nila sirain ang napakagandang acacia tunnel na nagbibigay kasiyahan sa lahat ng dumadaan duon sariwang hangin, greeneries on both side at m[ay] ordinansa resolution na inakda namin ni Dave na gawin iyang acacia theme park,” said former Vice Governor Art Ventura.
The project plans to expand the main highway from both ends of mainland Palawan covering some 600 kilometers.
“I just don’t want to see my home province turned out to be the next metro manila just for the sake of chasing that elusive word ‘development’ without being mindful of whose to benefit in the long run,” a netizen stated on social media.
In an earlier interview of Palawan News with DPWH Engr. Alejandro Ventilacion, he said that they have started work in the central portion of the mainland with an initial P3 billion downloaded to the 2nd engineering district which will run from the southern town of Narra to the southernmost end in Bataraza.
DENR-PENRO Felizardo Cayatoc told Palawan News that social acceptability is important to this kind of project.
He explained that a week ago, there was a composite meeting regarding the project and he made it clear that he wanted to see its actual description as basis for inventory as to how many trees will be affected.
He also said that ECC application is per area. He is however not sure about the specific areas that already have ECC but some areas like Bacungan, Napsan and Tubtub in Brooke’s Point have ECCs intended for widening projects.
The composite team is set to meet again anytime this August, Cayatoc said.