From the Philippine News Agency (Aug 11): DPWH: Villaverde Trail construction stalled due to insurgency concerns
Because of insurgency concerns, work on the remaining portions of the Villaverde Trail linking Pangasinan to Nueva Vizcaya was temporarily suspended till the police and the military make an assurance of the safety of the construction crew working on the project.
This was revealed by Emmanuel Diaz, director officer-in-charge of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) regional office, even as he said workers of a construction firm completing the remaining six kilometers of the Villa Verde Trail fear for their lives because of the possibility of attacks by New People's Army (NPA) terrorists.
He said although there was no actual threat yet, the construction workers based their fear on the recent encounter between elements of the Regional Public Safety Battalion 1 (RPSB) and the NPA rebels between Barangays Sta. Maria and Malico, San Nicolas.
In that encounter, one RPSB 1 member, PO2 Aries Tamondong, was killed while his comrade was wounded..
Diaz said the cessation of work is a temporary set back in the construction of that highway especially because of the fact that DPWH Secretary Mark Villar had given them up to Christmas this year to complete the project.
He said the DPWH is still optimistic of completing the project within the deadline set by Secretary Villar as he believes that the threat by the NPA in eastern San Nicolas is now over with increased police and military visibility in the area.
Still to be completed is the widening of a six-kilometer portion of the highway in Barangay Malico, San Nicolas -- the scene of a fierce firefight betwen RSPB1 elements and NPA rebels last July 28.
This portion is part of the 21-kilometer Pangasinan side of the Villa Verde Trail, construction of which started in 2013 with a budget of more than P2 billion, and implemented in three phases.
Diaz said to date, all types of motor vehicles can already pass through Villa Verde Trail in going to Sta. Fe, Nueva Vizcaya but the remaining six kilometers are yet to be widened before it could be finally opened in December.
Once opened to vehicular traffic, travel time between Pangasinan to Nueva Vizcaya will be reduced by two hours, thus a big boon to motorists and traders.
It will be an alternate road to Cagayan Valley in case the Dalton Pass in Sta. Fe is closed due to landslide.