Kennon closure no option for Vigilar
This has reference to the article titled “Fighting for century-old Kennon Road” (Inquirer, 5/16/12). May I comment on that portion of the article which says that “When Baguio was devastated by the July 16, 1990 earthquake, then Public Works Secretary Gregorio Vigilar decided to permanently close the damaged road…”
The damage caused by the 1990 earthquake along Kennon Road was so severe that the road was closed to traffic. When I became public works secretary in June 1993 (not in 1990), the road had been closed to traffic during the three years preceding. At that time, considering the estimated costs of repairing Kennon Road and opening it to traffic, there were serious suggestions to close the road permanently.
In this regard, at no time did I decide to, or recommend, the permanent closure of the road. On the contrary, the Department of Public Works and Highways strongly recommended to then President Fidel V. Ramos the earliest restoration of Kennon Road in order that the people living along that road would, at the very least, regain access to the lowland areas and Baguio City. President Ramos approved our recommendation. The DPWH then proceeded to restore the road and reopened it to traffic in early 1995.
May I also state that I did not “describe Kennon Road as the ‘worst engineered road in the country’s history’.” I did say that the defect in the design of that road was that it was built mainly along the bottom of the mountain slopes, just a few meters above the elevation of the Bued River bed, rather than farther up the slopes. Several knowledgeable highway engineers point out that the construction of Kennon Road close to the bottom of the slopes, made the road vulnerable to slides, which occur frequently in that area, especially during the rainy months. Experience has shown this contention to be correct.
Kennon Road opened to traffic in 1904, only to have large sections of the road destroyed by slides during the great typhoon floods in 1909 and 1911. To this day, the maintenance and repair costs of Kennon Road are among the highest in the country.
Naguilian Road and Marcos Highway, which are alternative routes to Baguio, were built much later, with the Kennon Road experience in mind. Both roads were constructed closer to the ridgelines of the hills which they traverse, and are thus generally free from the slides which often close Kennon Road to traffic.
—GREGORIO R. VIGILAR,
former public works secretary
The statement attributed to former Public Works Secretary Gregorio Vigilar was based on a recollection of Benguet Rep. Ronald Cosalan, as stated in the report exploring the impact of Kennon Road’s pending privatization. Mr. Vigilar’s engineering assessment of Kennon Road, which he discussed in the letter, was also cited in documents filed in various government agencies in Baguio City and was the key point of the article.
Inquirer Northern Luzon
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