By NITZ ARANCON and SHIELA MAE BUTLIG
COMPLAINTS hounding the move to make a section of a road cut through a property of former Agriculture undersecretary and now mayoral candidate Jose Gabriel “Pompee” La Viña have prompted the public works department to step on the brakes and turn its attention to another section of the multimillion-peso road project.
Leowald Pecore, a project engineer at the regional office of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), said the Department opted to focus first on the Bulua-Canitoan section of the project because of the complaints raised by a group of landowners led by Engr. Hilario Balvin.
On Thursday, Balvin, Engr. Raul Chaves and Dr. Gracia Salvador faced the city council’s committee on public works and complained about the revision of the plan for the Bulua-coastal road section of the project. The revision, they said, meant that road would pass through their properties in Barangay Bulua.
The project is aimed at constructing a 30-meter wide road near the Land Transportation Office (LTO) regional office that would link the highway in Bulua to the coastal road. The Bulua-coastal section is part of a much bigger road project that stretches all the way from Igpit in Opol, Misamis Oriental to uptown Cagayan de Oro.
Pecore said the DPWH would not resume the construction work at the Bulua-coastal road section until the affected landowners and the Department come to terms.
“Ang among gi-concentrate og trabaho karon ang gikan sa highway sa Bulua padulong sa Canitoan kay amo man kanang i-connect ngadto sa SM south diversion road,” Pecore said.
He explained that the DPWH has been working on the road network from Canitoan to Bulua in phases. The big project, he said, started in 2014.
“Phase by phase man gud ang release ani sa national government. Kada tuig, dunay i-release nga P100 million,” said Pecore. He said the national government has yet to release additional funds for it for this year.
Pecore said the road project would have been completed in four years if only the national government released all the needed funds for it.
Councilor Zaldy Ocon, the chairman of the public works committee, said La Viña showed unusual interest on the road project, and there were allegations that external efforts were exerted to make the DPWH change its plan so the road could pass through the former undersecretary’s property.
During the committee meeting, Balvin said La Viña had come to see him, and talked him into agreeing to allow the DPWH to build a road across his property. Balvin said he initially agreed on condition that there would be a proper consultation but he subsequently changed his mind and barred construction workers from his property.
Balvin said the landowners were not properly consulted by the DPWH about the road plan revision.
Ocon said he would bring the matter to the attention of the city council when it resumes its session this April 22.
He also said he would propose a city council resolution to officially request Public Works Secretary Mark Villar and DPWH regional director Zenaida Tan to stick to the original road plan, and build a straight road instead of constructing a winding road section that would pass through La Viña’s property.
On Saturday, La Vina found himself questioning Balvin’s legitimacy as a landowner.
La Viña said he remembered Balvin as a mere caretaker of the Bulua property supposedly owned by former National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales.
He said DPWH officials met with him and Gonzales in 2016, and Balvin was there only to witness it. He said the meeting ended with an agreement with the DPWH.
“Gisugot man si Gonzales kay maka-benipisyo man sad siya,” he said.
As for Balvin, La Viña said, “I don’t know if iya (Balvin) na ba na karon. Pangitai siya’g titulo if iya ba nang yuta.”
La Viña also claimed to have scolded Balvin for an alleged wrongdoing.
“Katong nilakaw na iyang (Balvin) amo (Gonzales), gakilkilan niya ang mga contractor. Maong ako siyang gikasab-an,” La Vina accused.
La Viña denied having a hand in the revision of the road plan, saying he was not yet in government when the project was initiated.
He said he agreed to donate 2,000 square meters of his property for the project to help the DPWH. The 2,000-square meter donation, according La Viña, would roughly amount to some P20 million.
He said his donation would mean “dili matunga ang opisina sa LTO ug dili maapektuhan ang daghan nga residente sa posible nga agian sa dalan.”
La Viña added: “Wala ko nagpabayad kay ako lang nga makatabang ko.”