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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Bump on the road: Silang horse stable jams CALAX

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The tropical savanna climate of Silang town in Cavite province for years has been a magnet for local tourists. Its average low temperature of 18 degrees celsius in January and February lures people from Metro Manila to enjoy the town’s cool weather.

Many have also moved in to the town and decided to settle. The picturesque Silang and its rollings hills are now home to many Metro Manilans. The town gave them a permanent break from the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.

But Silang lately has found itself at the heart of an infrastructure logjam—a small horse stable owned by a prominent politician is blocking the completion of a critical toll road project that aims to ease the notorious bottleneck along the 41-km Aguinaldo Highway in Cavite. The right-of-way furor is even threatening the ambition of Silang to become a city by 2025 and could tarnish its reputation as the “Botanical Garden of the Philippines.”

The proponent of the P35.7 billion Cavite-Laguna Expressway, or CALAX, is naturally dismayed over the ROW problem. Five years of delays in acquiring the ROW have raised the project cost by 15 percent and deferred the interchange’s operation several times.

Business and livelihood opportunities in Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon are being lost as a result of the delay. Each day of delay for Silang alone meant foregone tourism revenues for 300,000 residents. Silang Mayor Kevin Anarna has complained that his town cannot proceed with the construction of inner roads with the ROW deadlock over a vital section of the Silang (Aguinaldo) Interchange of CALAX.

Silang lately has difficulty in drawing more tourists and investors because of the ROW impasse. The lost business and job opportunities do not count the 40,000 daily motorists who stand to benefit from the completion of CALAX.

Mayor Anarna has urged the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to step in to break the five-year deadlock that has held up a critical section of the CALAX.

“We are very willing to help MPCALA and the national government to fast track the opening of the Calax Silang [Aguinaldo] Interchange. Right now, we are planning to set up a meeting with the owner of the land to discuss the right-of-way issues. Maybe, we can get a compromise agreement before the end of the year,” says Anarna.

Only 64 percent of the CALAX Silang (Aguinaldo) Interchange subsection, the fifth of eight segments of the 45-kilometer expressway, has been finished, per the progress report of project proponent MPCALA Holdings Inc., a unit of Metro Pacific Investments Corp.

The fifth of the eight segments of the 45-kilometer expressway covers 3.9 km from the Silang East Interchange to Aguinaldo Highway. Upon completion, it will serve more motorists, including 298,000 Silang residents.

The average daily traffic from Mamplasan to Silang Ease interchange stands at 33,000. This is expected to increase to 40,000 when the Silang (Aguinaldo) Interchange opens, easing the traffic along the 41-km Aguinaldo Highway—the busiest main thoroughfare in Cavite—as well as Governor’s Drive and Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay Road.

An undelivered ROW over a 450-meter long stretch of the property, owned by a prominent politician, has deferred work on the project. The ROW interestingly covers illegally built stables for race horses.

“We’re checking what legal remedies are available to us,” Mayor Anarna says.

MPCALA has to demolish the unauthorized horse stables to build a bridge and drainage systems connecting to the rest of the expressway.

“Because that vital portion of the CALAX is unfinished due to ROW concerns, our tourist attractions are not being developed and visited well,” says Mayor Anarna, adding that Silang’s cityhood depends on the completion of the CALAX.

MPCALA can operate CALAX’s Silang (Aguinaldo) Interchange by the first quarter 2023 if it succeeds in obtaining the ROW by the end of the year. The company has already moved the road’s opening date several times, with the most recent one in December this year.

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