NCCA halts DPWH road-widening project in La Union

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AGOO, La Union – The National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA), without conducting any ocular inspection, has stopped the on-going construction and widening of the national highway here – a project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

Felipe De Leon, NCCA chairman, issued a ‘cease and desist order’ (CDO) recently a day before the DPWH give a ‘notice to proceed’ to a private construction firm to start the project.

De Leon give credit to the claim of the Catholic Church, led by Bishop Rodolfo Beltran, that the concrete fence of the Plaza dela Virgen owned by the Agoo Basilica, which encroached three meters within the road right of way, has cultural and historical importance.

De Leon cited in his CDO that based on the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, all structures at least 50 years old are considered important cultural property and is entitled to protection against demolition.

However, a veteran lawyer and a resident of this town explained that the fence was built only after the 1990 killer quake which devastated this town and it’s not a significant structure because it is hazardous to travellers because it already caused accidents in the area.

“It (fence) has become a urinating area and a garbage receptacle. It has no important historical background because it endangers human lives and it violated the National Highway Act,” the lawyer said.

Bishop Beltran, in his letter to De Leon, said that they oppose the move because they find it absurd for anybody to apply to a property of cultural value and heritage in the DPWH’s widening project.

It was learned that the project was implemented after the DPWH district and regional offices conducted surveys in the affected area of the road widening and even the Church has deputized its own engineer to survey the portion and found out that the fence has overshot three meters within the 20-meters road right of way.

Roy Aruta, DPWH Project Engineer, said they will abide by the CDO and will temporarily stop the demolition of the fence.

Representative Eufanio Eriguel, speaking in behalf of the local government of Agoo, said they want a consultation with all the parties concerned to clarify everything surrounding the project and the issues raised by the Church.

He said the project was bidded out on January 22 and the ‘notice to proceed’ was issued on Feb. 20 while the CDO was issued Feb. 21 without any verification or hearing conducted by the NCCA.

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