Hopes for wider upland roads
OFF TANGENT - Aven Piramide (The Freeman) - February 13, 2020 - 12:00am

Few years before Atty Michael Rama became Cebu City mayor, I bought a very small parcel of land in the mountain barangay of Paril some twenty two kilometers from my gate at home. Despite its insignificant size, I valued it so much such that I would always go there on Saturdays to do various menial undertakings such as gardening and planting of few trees. Visiting the property was, early on, very challenging. On rainy days, the road was muddy and slippery. Even my old but usually reliable Volkswagen  beetle had to crawl, figuratively speaking. On the other hand, I and fellow travelers would drive thru roads covered with thick dusty layers and paved with sharp-edged stones on dry weather. My trips to Paril then always demanded extreme vigilance.

Very soon after Rama became city mayor, things changed for the better for residents in the mountain barangays. According to them, Rama, unlike other previous mayors, frequently went to the city’s upland areas, including Paril. In a brief period of time, the terrible roads got his attention and driving ceased being stressful with the mayor’s massive concreting projects implemented with incredible dispatch. Believe me, in due time, I would no longer hesitate driving my Mercedes Benz there.

The concrete roads built by Rama in his two mayoral terms did not seem to get the same degree of attention in the following administration of former mayor Tomas Osmeña.  With the passage of the three year Osmeña mayorship, we, mountain travelers, have, in the meantime, realized two observable facts. First, the volume of traffic towards the upland barangays has exponentially increased. There have just become many vehicular road users. For example, only few years ago, no one among my neighbors in the small sitio of Baugo owned a motorized vehicle. There are just few houses there yet today, there are at least four jeeps/multicabs and a good number of motorcycles. Second, owing perhaps to the unbelievable increase of motorized units, we have found out that the mountain roads have become too narrow and congested for safe travel.

Realistically speaking though, if the roads to the city’s mountain barangays are not that wide, it is because that was what the city could only afford. The ambitious plans of Rama as the original road building proponent had been limited by the paucity of available finances. I am sure that he would have wanted to build four lane wide highways, but funding the huge capital requirements of such infrastructure would have cost so much as to affect adversely the city’s ability to deliver other equally important services.

There is indeed, a need to widen the existing narrow roads in the upland barangays and build new avenues there. Having said that, I like to believe that the city may still have at least two viable sources. For one, it can monetize portions of its valuable South Road Properties and plough the generated funds to develop express ways to the mountain areas. It is a logical move. In a manner of speaking, this option returns to the city taxpayers their taxes which the city used to pay for the money loaned from foreign sources to reclaim the south land. Urban planners have maintained that making travel to the city’s upland vastly efficient will open up huge areas of presently marginalized places to massive development. In short, generating money out of portions of the SRP to finance road construction to the mountains will pay incredibly huge dividends. This can do better than what Rama did in 2010-2016.

Secondly,  the present city leadership, who boasts of its closeness to Malacañang,, can take advantage of such special relations to open the national financial valves and funnel such funds to construct highways to our mountains. In fact, this second of the two options is arguably better for it is a much bigger fund source availing which can translate to the conservation of city’s assets.

aa.piramide@gmail.com

MICHAEL RAMA
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