Edward B. Antonio
It’s harvest season once again, fellas.
Many farmers and the traders are more extremely thankful this time, more thankful than last year. Other people are thankful, too. In fact, they have a thank you letter to the DPWH expressing their gratitude.
This is the content of their thank you letter:
“Dear DPWH: Thank you very much for extending the highway for that wide, wide shoulder. Thank you for giving us a wide solar dryer, an ample parking area, a business extension area and a party lot for our friends when there are occasions. Thank you for widening the national highway. We could not thank you more. Please maintain it so that we can continue using it according to our desire.”
I like the sarcasm of the letter, but I know that the DPWH is fuming mad of it. The DPWH is helpless, as usual, because they do not have that police power to implement Department Order No. 73, s. 2014 (Prohibited Uses within the Road- Right-of-Way of National Roads) which prohibits–
1. all kinds of temporary and permanent structures, such as buildings, houses, shanties, stores, shops, stalls, sheds, canopies, billboards, signages, advertisements, fences, walls, railings, basketball courts, barangay halls, garbage receptacles, and the like
2. posts and towers of electric cooperatives and major electric power distributors; distribution lines; posts for cables of phones and mobile service providers
3. driveways and ramps occupying or protruding to the sidewalk
4. Trees, shrubs, and plant boxes
5. humps, whether permanent or temporary
6. dumping and storage of construction materials, such as sand, gravel, cement, lumber and steel bars, earth spoils, waste materials, debris, embankment, heaps, and the like
7. vehicles and equipment, including junked items that are parked, occupying or protruding to the sidewalk or shoulder
8. vending, repair of vehicles, and other businesses within the sidewalk and other
9. disposal of household/commercial/industrial wastewater and sewage into the sidewalk, curb and gutter, and carriageway
10. raising of animals or allowing them to roam within the shoulder and
11. washing and drying of clothes, crops, and similar item
But the law is sometimes useless, fellas.
It has no teeth.
“It’s only a law, a piece of paper worth the garbage can,” says the big time rice traders and farmers, businessmen and car owners.
The DPWH said the law is passed on to the local government and the PNP for implementation. But even the PNP could not do anything as the highway shoulders nowadays are filled with palay for drying. For years the DPWH keeps on reminding the farmers: Don’t use the highways as solar driers.
“It is observed that farmers taking advantage of the good weather are drying up their palay or corn along the national highways and cordoning off road sections that were widened. To add trouble, these farmers put stones and barriers along the national highways to protect their palay from being overrun by vehicles. The presence of big stones or boulders poses danger to motorists,” the DPWH said.
The DPWH said it already widened and improved several roads, including: McArthur Highway or the Manila North Road going to the Ilocos region, Cagayan Valley Road going to Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, and Isabela and the Manila South Road or Daang Maharlika going to Bicol and other national arterial roads in the country.
“The DPWH has not stopped informing the public about the prohibition and we are also asking the help of the media to intensify the information campaign about the prohibition,” the DPWH said.
But the Filipino farmer and the trader are a hard nut to crack.
The DPWH said there have been several instances when DPWH teams confiscated the crops being dried in roads but whenever they attempted to load these in dump trucks, people threw stones at them or even ran after them with bolos!
“We have already coordinated with the LGUs with jurisdiction over areas with major highways and urged them to strictly enforce the ‘no obstruction’ regulation and anti-encroachment rule on national roads, including highways’ shoulders, that were widened to provide more space for the smooth flow of traffic and not to be used as solar dryer,” the DPWH said.
The DPWH has also requested help from the Philippine National Police (PNP) and barangay officials in solving this problem.
I don’t know what’s keeping them from fully implementing the law.
Is it because those sacks of rice being dried there are owned by some big time traders or farmers or politicians?
Well, I don’t know, fellas. Maybe yes, maybe no. All we can see are those trucks and trucks of palay rice being brought to and fro along the national highway, leaving all those palay residue dust to afflict the sensitive ones with skin itch.
The DPWH continues to urge local government units to help put order on the national roads, especially in market areas or town centers, which are being used as terminals or parking areas of these tricycles and motorcycles. Both LGUs and the Philippine National Police should strictly enforce the No Parking regulations covering national roads.
But nothing like that seems to be happening.
Maybe we need a Duterte-like local governance to enforce the law.
And as long as those who should implement the law are also those violating it, it’s gonna be a toothless law, as usual, says Mang Maing, who has been suffering from skin itch since the highway solar driers started operating.
“It’s palay from September to December or January and corn from February to June, so our taxes do not really benefit us 100%,” he says.
And so, there’s the thank you letter in my intro to this column.
Only in the Philippines, fellas!