By NITZ ARANCON, Correspondent .
A BULUA landowner affected by a government road project said mayoral candidate Jose Gabriel La Viña was accompanied by representatives of the public works department when the politician tried to convince him into agreeing to a revised project plan that would mean changing the direction of the road towards their properties.
Engr. Hilario Balbin (not “Balvin” as misspelled in earlier reports) said, “Duna may duha ka personahi sa DPWH mi-adto sa among balay uban ni La Viña, ug mi-ingon nga ilang ipaliko ang maong dalan.”
Balbin’s narrative did not jibe with the claim made by DPWH project engineer Leowald Pecore who told the city council’s public works committee earlier this month that the DPWH was unaware that the revision of the plan meant building a section of the road towards La Viña’s property.
Pecore said the revised plan was approved by a former DPWH regional director, and La Viña had nothing to do with the decision. The revision, he added, would make the government save funds for expropriation given that the original plan would mean damages to many structures in the area.
But Balbin maintained that La Viña, one of the landowners, went to see him and asked him to agree on the revised plan.
He said La Viña was accompanied by two representatives of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Balbin said he did not express opposition but made it clear to La Viña and two of his companions from the DPWH that there was a need for another public consultation because what they wanted was a major deviation from the agreed road plan.
“Ingon si La Viña nga siya ra kuno ang bahala sa iyang mga silingan,” Balbin said.
He said the public works department started work on the project that would provide a straight link from the present Cagayan de Oro-Iligan highway to the Bulua section of the coastal road based on the original plan in 2015. Work on that section of the bigger Canitoan-Bulua road project was subsequently halted following a major change in the plan.
Balbin told the Gold Star Daily that a contractor, Jay-car Construction, sent heavy equipment to the project site and brought filling materials in order to raise the grade of the roadway above the level of the existing surrounding ground surface based on the original plan.
The original plan, according to Balbin, had the consent of affected residents and landowners. He maintained that the original plan to construct a straight road from the highway to the coastal road was what was agreed during a public consultation at the Bulua covered court.
During the public consultation, everyone agreed on a straight road based on the original plan, according to Balbin.
He said the DPWH subsequently changed the plan, resulting in complications.
The next thing, he said, construction workers were already trying to bring in a bulldozer into his property to work on the project based on the revised plan without any public consultation.
Balbin said his and La Viña’s relations soured after he stopped construction workers from entering his property as a result of the revised road plan.
Balbin recounted: “Pagbiya adtong bulldozer, nanawag si La Viña sa ako. Iya kong gibalikas ug maayo kay unsa kuno ko nga ikasabot. Wala ko makasabot kinsa man ning tawhanan nga mag-ingon ani sa akoa?”
Balbin opined that it became apparent to him that La Viña had a hand in the DPWH’s revision of the road plan.
Councilor Teodulfo Lao Jr. said the convenience of the public is what’s important to him.
“Kon convenient alang sa public ang pag-revise sa DPWH sa maong dalan, walay problima. Pero kon convenience lang ni Pompee (La Viña) aron momahal ang presyo sa iyang yuta, lahi na pud na nga storya. Dili na puwede,” Lao said.
But for Councilor Lordan Suan, Balbin cannot stop a government project.
“Wala may private individual nga maka bo-ot sa DPWH kon asa ipa-agi ang dalan. Puwede ba diay nga imong ingnon ang DPWH nga dinhi ipa-agi sa akong yuta ang dalan? Mosugot ba diay pud na sila?” Suan said.
La Viña, a former undersecretary of the agriculture department, earlier strongly denied having a hand in the revision of the plan, pointing out that he had no influence over the DPWH, and that he was not yet with the government at that time. He said it was the DPWH that called him up to inform him about the revision, and that he even agreed to donate a portion of his Bulua property because the project meant traffic decongestion.