Despite C-5 mess, Villar still eyeing more road projects
The C-5 road controversy that continues to hound Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. is not stopping him from engaging in other road projects in the future, especially if he is elected president.
At a meeting with Pangasinan officials over the weekend, Villar expressed interest in the proposed Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) that aims to strengthen northern Luzon’s links to the rest of the country, with Pangasinan as a major route.
The TPLEX, a build-operate-transfer (BOT) project, will be an 88-kilometer, four-lane highway that will connect North Luzon Expressway and Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway to Northern Luzon provinces at a cost of P16.88 billion.
The planned expressway is expected to cut travel time from Tarlac to La Union and Baguio City by two hours.
To be built by the Department of Public Works and Highways, TPLEX will be transferred soon after completion to the private sector which will manage the new road under the private public partnership program (PPP).
Villar also showed particular interest in the suggestions of Pangasinan mayors to construct a major road that will link Eastern Pangasinan to Cagayan Valley by passing through Barangay Malico in San Nicolas town, where they said the climate is colder than Baguio City’s. The road will also lead to Sta. Fe Trail in Nueva Vizcaya.
“If there is anybody who can understand development, it is you. Pangasinan is a very strategic area, the gateway to the north,” said Pangasinan Rep. Conrado Estrella III in pitching the project to Villar during the meeting.
Villar said he wanted such undertakings to be done immediately. “Gusto ko agad-agad (I want it done immediately). Show me the details,” he said.
Estrella said that despite its strategic location, Pangasinan has neither an airport nor a fishport. He noted that the proposed project would open the province not only to the Ilocos Region but also to Region II.
Estrella said residents of both Pangasinan and Nueva Vizcaya are amenable to developing the area that could enhance the tourism potential of the two provinces.
San Nicolas Mayor Leoncio Saldivar said the place in San Nicolas is about 3 ½ hours drive from Dagupan City, and about 1 ½ hours drive from Urdaneta City. “But travel time will definitely be shortened if the project will be undertaken,” he said.
At a press conference at La Trinidad, Benguet Sunday before going to Panagbenga Festival, Villar said he would push for the link-up of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) to the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX).
The senator said this would allow people coming from the Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, Quezon, Rizal and even those in the Bicol region to come to Baguio City without having to pass EDSA.
He believed this project would boost the tourism industry of the country’s summer capital.
Villar also said he would push for re-greening of Baguio, adding he does not want to see the tourism potential of the city go to waste. He noted the beauty of Baguio is being lost to rapid development that brings about problems like congestion, overpopulation and pollution.
“It has been my long dream [to revive Baguio’s glory]. If I will be fortunate [to win the presidential election], it will be one of my priorities on my first day in office. I will finish it before my term ends,” he said.
In Iloilo last week, Villar vowed to implement more infrastructure programs and build more road networks between and among the provinces in the Panay island in order to spur progress in the region, noting the almost three-hour travel from Roxas City to Iloilo City.
“Yung Roxas, for example, mahaba pa rin ang biyahe papuntang Iloilo. Sana mapaganda natin ito para magkaroon ng mas masigla na interaction itong ating taga-komersyo, na galing iba’t ibang lalawigan dito sa Panay, yang Aklan, Capiz, Antique at saka Iloilo,” he told reporters.
(Take Roxas for example. Travel time to Iloilo still takes a couple of hours. I hope this will be improved so that there will be healthier commercial interaction among provinces here.)
Villar also said he also intends to make Iloilo, which he claims to be his home province, one of the top provinces in the country if he gets elected president.
The senator’s father, Manuel Sr., hailed from Cabatuan and Balasan. His grandfather was from Molo, Iloilo City, and his grandmother was from Cabatuan municipality, Iloilo. Three of Villar’s four sisters also married Ilonggos from Dumangas.
Villar, a real state developer and Forbes Magazine’s ninth richest Filipino in 2009 with a net worth of $530 million, was accused of using his power to realign the C-5 project for the benefit of his companies.
The report of the committee of the whole stated that there is substantial evidence to prove that Villar is a major stockholder of Adelfa Properties Inc., which owns Golden Haven Memorial Park and Azalea Real Estate Corporation (now Britanny Corporation), and was the proponent of Las Piñas-Parañaque Link Road project and the government’s C-5 road extension project.
It said the road projects were made to pass through the properties of the corporations of Villar following a curved, instead of a straight, alignment. It also said that the alignment of the C-5 road extension segment of the Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway Project had to be changed just to accommodate the alignments of the Las Piñas-Parañaque and C-5 extension projects.
Villar’s corporations allegedly received road right-of-way compensation and still have unpaid claims. It said the properties of Villar that were acquired were given zonal valuation for different areas, thus increasing the compensation due them.
It also said that Villar failed to avoid a conflict-of-interest situation by not divesting himself of his shareholdings or interest in the mentioned corporations. It added that Villar used his power to satisfy the interest of his corporations. – KBK/JV, GMANews.TV