DPWH seeks extension to clear landslide-hit portion of diversion road

THE DEPARTMENT of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) said it needs five more days to fully clear the landslide-hit portion of Carlos P Garcia Highway at the foot of Shrine Hills.

Engr. Michael dela Vega, DPWH project designer, told city councilors that it will be possible to declare the area safe in the next five days for all types of vehicles.

Dela Vega and other DPWH officials were invited by the City Council to explain the status of the repair work at the highway, popularly known as diversion road.

The city and the DPWH initially agreed to close part of the road for 48 hours to clear up the debris of the landslide that hit the foot of the hills on its western side, near the old dumpsite, for a week.

Ordered closed on Oct. 6, Friday, was from Matina Pangi junction up to the Shrine Hills junction, about two kilometers. The road closure caused a major traffic jam in the city.

Starting yesterday, only vehicles going north are allowed to pass the area on limited hours, from 5 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Geologists from both the DPWH and the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) agree that the landslide that occurred this month was a combination of various factors, including the road work of the DPWH.

However, the DPWH said that one major factor of the landslide was the rerouting of a spring towards the construction site, which led to the saturation of water.

Engr. Beverly Mae Brebante, officer in charge of the MGB’s geosciences division, said there was a scraping of the lateral support of Shrine Hills that also added to the reduction of the hills’ ability to carry its land weight.

Moreover, the DPWH’s own geologist, Engr. Thea Shaira Mae Peguit, said some building constructed uphill are not only located in an area with a land crack, it was also built on a previous landslide or an escarpment.

Brebante said the MGB conducted a detailed geological study of the whole Shrine Hills, with that portion of the hills identified as highly susceptible. The results were presented in 2011.

This formed part of the declaration of the area as an ecological subzone.

It was in 2011 when the city government declared the area an ecological subzone, which prohibits construction in large parts of the Shrine.

However, more than five years later, the implementing rules and regulations of the ordinance are not yet out.

The MGB said the first indication that there could be a landslide was in Sept. 30, when contractors first saw a tension crack at the higher part of the slope, at the portion of the Seventh Day Adventist structure.

“After heavy rains on October 5, we received a call on the following day,” Brebante said.

This was when the city government decided to close off that part of the diversion road to oncoming traffic, after continuous rains caused major landslides.

The City Planning and Development Office said the city government has asked the DPWH as early as August on its planned works after noticing that the contractor was scraping a portion of the Shrine Hills.

CPDO head Ivan Cortez, in a letter addressed to DPWH assistant regional director Zenaida Tan, noted that an ocular inspection of the construction site showed that there was a scraping at the foot of Shrine Hills, and that there were residents and properties just on the top of the hillsides being cut.

Councilors have questioned the apparent lack of coordination among city agencies and national government offices.

Councilor Ma. Belen Acosta, chair of the city council’s public safety and security committee, said during yesterday’s weekly Pulong Pulong ni Pulong media forum that the Shrine Hills should be a gem in the middle of the city.

Acosta said that property owners should find alternative methods of earning from their properties.

Meanwhile, majority floor leader Bernard Al-ag said during the same forum that the local government should seriously consider filing charges against property owners upslope who continue to build structures on the sensitive land formation.

The item was referred to the committees on environment, transportation, housing, and public works.

The environment committee will take the lead in determining the policies needed to prevent a similar incident in the future.