‘DAANG KALIKASAN’. The Daang Kalikasan in Mangatarem, Pangasinan province offers a scenic view of the mountainous area of the town. However, it is still closed to the public but tree planting activities are allowed in coordination with the local government unit. (Photo by Hilda Austria)

MANGATAREM, Pangasinan – The scenic 24.22-kilometer "Daang Katutubo" in Aguilar town and the 14.6-kilometer “Daang Kalikasan” here that would directly link Pangasinan and Zambales provinces are now 80-percent complete, according to the Department of Public Works and Highways Ilocos regional office (DPWH-1).

In a phone interview on Friday, DPWH-1 project engineer Willer Bince said the construction of the 210-meter bridge that would link the two road systems is ongoing with PHP30 million funding in 2021, and PHP70 million this year.

“The bridge is now at 80 percent as well while there is still a three-kilometer (bridge) to be constructed to link the two road systems,” he said.

The construction of Daang Kalikasan and Daang Katutubo is expected to be completed by 2021 but he said the pandemic has halted its completion as funds may have been realigned.

The Daang Katutubo in Aguilar town has been benefiting residents, especially the indigenous people’s communities as well as the agro-tourism in the town.

The road project began in 2018 with initial funding of PHP784 million from the DPWH and the Department of Tourism.

“The road is a two-lane road unlike ‘Daang Kalikasan’, which is a four-lane road. It is called ‘Daang Katutubo’ because the residents in the barangays along the road are IPs (indigenous peoples),” Bince said.

He said the road used to be a muddy trail, especially for those going to Sitio Mapita here.

Daang Kalikasan’s construction, on the other hand, was started in 2017 along the highway on the Zambales side, with the intention to have both ends meet in the middle.

It already draws tourists even from neighboring provinces as due to its picturesque view.

Upon completion, travelers from central and eastern Pangasinan need not pass through the towns and cities in western Pangasinan to get to Zambales.

It has been temporarily closed to visitors to prevent delays in its construction.

However, tree planting activities in its denuded mountains are allowed in coordination with the local government unit.

Both roads draw tourists due to the breathtaking view of the mountains.

The project was initiated in 2012 by then 2nd District Representative Leopoldo Bataoil, now mayor of Lingayen town. (PNA)