Gov. Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. announced here on Wednesday that the long-delayed road project to link the provinces of Zambales and Tarlac may soon be completed with the blessings of President Noynoy Aquino.
Ebdane, who met with Tarlac Gov. Victor Yap Wednesday morning, said the two provincial executives have agreed to request President Aquino to prioritize the highway project in order to usher in faster development in the two neighboring provinces, as well as the Central Luzon region.
“We shall make the request to the President, with the hope that he would make this his legacy project since he hails from the province of Tarlac,” Ebdane said during the mass induction of newly-elected barangay officials in this town.
“It would undoubtedly be to President Noynoy’s credit if the project is completed under his term, since the Zambales-Tarlac road project has been considered as early as 1901, during the time of the Americans,” he added.
President Aquino’s father, the martyred former senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. has also revealed a plan to connect Tarlac to Zambales in 1963, Ebdane said.
Construction of the proposed highway had since started from both the Zambales and Tarlac sides over several decades, but was temporarily halted after the Mt. Pinatubo eruption in 1991.
Ebdane said that the government recently allocated P50 million to complete the road link that would cut through the Zambales mountain range, after the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) spent some P15 million last year to clear portions of the jungle for the highway.
He added that once the funds were released, “tuloy-tuloy na ‘yan. The project would push through finally.”
Ebdane also said that he and Gov. Yap had already ironed out concerns on the road alignment after making a helicopter inspection of the project area on Wednesday.
“We agreed that both the Tarlac and Zambales segments would meet at the Camp O’Donell area and then connect to the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx),” Ebdane told Palauig officials. “This way, we could prevent extraneous cost while maximizing accessibility for Zambales and Tarlac in relation to other areas in Central Luzon.”
Reacting to the governor’s announcement, Palauig town mayor Generoso Amog lauded Ebdane for being “a gentleman and a professional”, pointing out that the provincial executive has set aside partisan politics after assuming the governorship last July.
“In turn, we pledge our support to you. We shall follow and work to help realize your good programs,” Amog vowed.
Ebdane said the Zambales-Tarlac road project would not only open up Zambales to trade and tourism opportunities in the region, but would also ease the transportation system in the coastal province.
The proposed highway would also provide an alternative route to central Zambales in case of flashfloods that sometimes occur in towns still affected by volcanic wastes that course down Pinatubo during the rainy season.
Another ongoing road project, the Sta. Cruz-Mangatarem highway, would meanwhile connect northern Zambales to eastern Pangasinan and boost trade in that area, Ebdane added.