PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, Palawan – A provincial board member has requested the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to do exhaustive dialogues with residents of Palawan on the proposed PHP30-billion six-lane superhighway project.

Board Member Winston Arzaga filed a measure Tuesday before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and addressed the request to DPWH Secretary Mark Villar.

The appeal was made by the board member in the wake of criticisms that the public was not consulted on the superhighway project.

One of the concerns raised was the possibility that the project would destroy hundreds of old Acacia trees from El Nido in the north to Brooke’s Point town in the southern area.

“The construction of such a huge road-widening and improvement project will certainly impact on the residents along the highway, who until now, have never been informed nor consulted, particularly on the just compensation of their properties,” Arzaga said.

He said holding dialogues would also assure transparency and community involvement.

“It is necessary for the DPWH, as the lead agency of the project, to maintain close coordination with LGUs and conduct dialogues, as well as information campaigns among affected residents for the successful implementation of the project,” Arzaga said.

The project, which is seen to further boost Palawan’s tourism industry, is going to turn an estimated 600-kilometer two-lane arterial road from southern to the northern side into a six-lane superhighway.

It is expected to support the sub-regional economic co-operation initiative Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Vision 2025 on facilitating free movement of people, goods, and services.

Lawyer and provincial information officer Gil Acosta Jr. told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) earlier that the “ambitious plan of developing the province’s national road, which costs PHP30 billion, has been approved by President Rodrigo Duterte, and will be coursed through the DPWH.

“The robust growth of the local economy attributed primarily to the thriving tourism industry made it is imperative for the provincial leadership to seek remedy to address the need for wider roads for ease of travel,” he said.

However, the road-widening project met controversies recently, when a concerned resident started gathering online signatures to prevent it from allegedly destroying a long row of Acacia trees that had formed a natural tunnel along Barangay Inagawan in this city.

To date, the signature campaign launched at Change.org needs only 5,722 to reach its target of 25,000. (PNA)