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House panels approve bill creating Quezon-Bicol Expressway

The development and progress among regions in Southern Luzon is expected to be enhanced by a bill seeking to establish the Quezon-Bicol Expressway, which has already been endorsed for plenary approval.

The House Committees on Southern Tagalog Development chaired by Rep. Isidro S. Rodriguez, Jr. (2nd District, Rizal) and on Appropriations chaired by Rep. Isidro T. Ungab (3rd District, Davao City) have both approved House Bill 6475 or the proposed "Quezon-Bicol Expressway Act" and have endorsed it for plenary passage.

The bill substituted HB 5623 authored by Rep. Scott Davies S. Lanete, M.D. (3rd District, Masbate) and HB 3741 by Rep. Aleta C. Suarez (3rd District, Quezon).

It provides for the creation of the Quezon-Bicol Expressway (QuBEx) which shall be financed, constructed, operated and maintained by a grantee, offeror, consortium or proponent, under and by virtue of Republic Act No. 6957, as amended by RA 7718, otherwise known as the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) Law.

The QuBEx shall link the province of Quezon with the Bicol Region starting from Malicboy, Quezon and terminating in Sorsogon.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Engineering District concerned shall construct the connect road for the purpose of linking the terminus of the SLEX Toll Road 4 (TR4) in Lucena City and the entrance of the QuBEx in Malicboy.

The DPWH shall be the lead implementing agency of the Act. The amount necessary to defray the cost of undertaking and completing the feasibility study of the project and other activities relative thereto shall be included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA).

Lanete said the State has continuously failed to promote simultaneous development among the country's regions as shown for example by the construction of expressways leading to Northern and Southern Luzon.

Lanete said there are only two expressways leading to Southern Luzon namely the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) and the Star Tollway, and with these two combined lead up to Batangas only.

Whereas, Lanete said the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX), which opened in 2014, is the third expressway built connecting the country's capital of Manila to the northern areas of Luzon.

Lanete, a vice chairman of the House Committees on Appropriations, on Poverty Alleviation, and on Public Order and Safety, said the TPLEX construction has brought immediate impact in the development of trade and tourism in Northern Luzon.

"It made Baguio City, a popular tourist destination, more accessible. In fact, travel time from Manila to Baguio City had been cut short from seven hours to less than five hours. Thus, Baguio City has experienced an exponential rise in the number of visiting tourists and consequently its revenues also increased significantly," said Lanete.

Thus, compared to the expressways of Northern Luzon, which cover at least five provinces, it can be inferred that Southern Luzon has been spared from development according to Lanete.

"The promising tourist destinations located in the southern areas of Luzon have remained stagnant, untapped and underappreciated due to difficulty in access. Along with the underdevelopment of these areas is the slow growth in terms of commerce," he said.

To pursue optimum opportunity for development among the regions, the lawmaker said there is a need to give attention to Southern Luzon. "By constructing additional expressways that would make areas, as far as Sorsogon Province, more accessible by road, only one result will be achieved which is progress," said Lanete.

Lanete said through his proposal to create the Quezon-Bicol Expressway or QuBEx, the State will be fulfilling its responsibility in promoting optimum growth among the regions in Southern Luzon. "It is envisioned that there will be an improvement in the tourism industry which will translate to a developed and progressive citizenry," said Lanete.

Meanwhile, Suarez's proposal seeks to amend Presidential Decree No, 1894 which provides that the grantee of the franchise has the right and privilege to construct, maintain and operate the SLEX from Nichols, Pasay City to Lucena City.

"After almost 30 years from its enactment, there is a need to amend P.D. 1894 to respond to the changes of time. The proposed amendatory law will extend the SLEX from Lucena City to Malicboy, Quezon by an additional 21.96 kilometers," said Suarez.

Suarez, a member of the Committees on Southern Tagalog Development, Appropriations, Reforestation, Health, and Accounts said the proposed extension of road network from Lucena City to Malicboy, Quezon aims to make travel to the Bicol Region faster and more convenient.

"It will decongest traffic within and around the area. As a result, it will improve the mobility of goods and products from Quezon Province and the Bicol Region. The faster and convenient travel would also translate to a growth of the tourism industry in these areas to the benefit of people living therein," said Suarez.

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