Nearly four kilometers of beaches along the shoreline of Virac poblacion will be swallowed by a tourism development project of the national government set to begin this year.
According to District Engineer Elmer Redrico, the Construction, Widening, Improvement, Rehabilitation and/or Extension of Virac Imelda Boulevard leading to Virac Seaport is part of the Convergence Program of the Department of Tourism (DOT) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
Under the proposal that was finalized early this year, the boulevard project costing a total of P746 million is supposed to be implemented beginning 2018 with an initial funding of P300 million covering a length of 2.64 kilometers.
However, DE Redrico said, the amount of P50 million has already been included in the DPWH budget under the 2017 General Appropriations Act upon the initiative of Congressman Cesar Sarmiento. This is separate from another P100 million for the extension of the existing boulevard at Francia. As early as last year, the congressman had already proposed the expansion of the existing boulevard similar to Manila’s Baywalk.
Of the 2017 allocation, P50 million has been set aside for the widening of the existing boulevard in barangay Salvacion along a 146-meter stretch from the breakwater area to a point near the municipal government compound. The other P100 million would cover the extension and/or widening of the boulevard at its existing endpoint at barangay Francia towards Capilihan and San Vicente.
Redrico disclosed that aside from being a tourism development infrastructure, the project would also serve as protection against storm surge, and decongest the town center of heavy vehicular traffic. A wharf is also being proposed alongside the breakwater as a docking facility for small boats with protection against rough seas.
Under the DPWH plan, the existing boulevard will be extended 12 meters toward the sea, with the sandy beach to be buried under thousands of cubic meters of rocks weighing at least 1.5 tons each. Planning Section chief Engr. Pedro Ceferino Guerrero Jr. said the Class III rocks would have to be sourced from Albay as there is no longer that enough volume available on the island.
When completed, the reinforced concrete roadway along the 146-meter length of the initial project would be four lanes. The side fronting the sea would comprise the top portion of the shore protection work or sea wall and roughly 2.5 meters of open lane for joggers and bikers protected from the road by a plant box with bench. A one-meter sidewalk will also be constructed along the existing buildings and lots throughout the length of the project.
For the entire length of the project from San Pablo to Francia, the DPWH would provide a total of four fish landing wharves to enable boats to dock and allow their evacuation to shore in case of bad weather. Stairs will also be provided at strategic areas along its length.
De Redrico said that once completed until San Vicente, passenger buses and vans from the eastern towns would be diverted to the boulevard extension road towards the existing temporary terminal, as the boulevard pavement will be designed as a national road.
He added that if the plan of the Virac municipal government to build a transport terminal along reclaimed land at the Palnab area proceeds, a bridge will connect the boulevard with the terminal across the Gogon river.
The San Vicente portion of the project, however, would most likely affect the existing establishments and structures the red-light strip of the barangay until the Virac-Bato boundary, a source said. The extension from Francia will also involve the construction of four new bridges.
“The project is ambitious but doable,” DE Redrico told the Tribune, adding that the existing constraints such as the settlement of right-of-way issues through the local government unit would have to be considered.