Issue of September 1, 2019
Mt. Province
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Inter-agency TWG to study Kennon Road rehabilitation
by Julieta Aban

The Department of Public Works and Highways-Cordillera welcomed the move of Task Force Kennon Road to form a technical working group to be composed of members from the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, Environment Management Bureau, the concerned provincial and local government units and DPWH technical team to study the state of Kennon Road and prepare recommendations for its rehabilitation.

The motion to create a TWG by Office of the Civil Defense-Cordillera  Director Albert A. Mogol transpired during the coordination meeting of Task Force Kennon Road on Aug. 24, after the members expressed their concerns about the present state of Kennon Road and the frequency of slides and accidents occurring especially during monsoon rains and storms.

The basis for the TWG is a provision in the memorandum of understanding for the administration and regulation of access along Kennon Road within the jurisdiction and area of responsibility of various government agencies, signed on Jan. 17, that geological investigations should be conducted for the determination and selection of the type of intervention to be adopted, whether structural or non-structural.

During the presentation of DPWH-Cordillera Engr. Arnold Dacwag of the Planning and Design Division, he reported that the critical sections along Kennon Road have increased from nine to 21; 14 are classified as first priority and seven are second priority for rehabilitation.

The DPWH proposed the construction of a 19-kilometer tunnel and rock sheds at critical sections, rock netting, and catch dams or any combination of structures at less critical sections depending on the availability of funds.

DPWH-Cordillera Director Tiburcio Canlas said it is unfair that the agency’s projects are constantly being blamed for the slides in the area, because the real cause is mostly environmental and unabated human activities.

Baguio Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong, who had earlier been briefed about the history of the closure and the present condition of Kennon Road, and the formation of the task force, said that he received reports of pocket mining at Camp 7 and cited the presence of human activities on top of the mountains near the slopes right above the road line, as could be viewed through Google Map.

He said these should be stopped and any further activities should immediately be reported to the respective LGUs for appropriate action.

Mogol requested representatives of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to report their actions taken on the said pocket mining and adverse human activities such as kaingin along Kennon Road and at Itogon and for MGB to present their findings and recommendations, in the next coordination meeting.

On the allegation that DPWH is not attending to the removal of slides/debris at Camp 5 when Magalong inspected the area, Canlas explained that they could not just move to the site considering the active slide, and must observe proper procedure in clearing operation, which is to let the soil “dry up” and wait for the soil to stabilize first before they allow personnel to remove the debris, or else their lives will be put at risk.

Canlas also requested that barangay officials in Tuba, Benguet help in responding to inquiries and emergencies, especially that they have been tasked to constantly monitor the areas where slides or accidents occur.

In the MGB report dated Aug. 13, it was reported that an active landslide was noted at the slope of Camp 5 at the time of inspection on Aug. 11, measuring approximately 100 meters and 70 meters high.

“Dapat natuto na tayo doon sa Ompong and the two and half months of continuous rain,” Mogol said referring to the devastation caused by the monsoon rains and typhoons Ompong and Rosita in 2018.

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