METRO MANILA, September 17, 2003 (STAR) By Cecille Suerte Felipe And Jose Aravilla  - Rizal Avenue in Sta. Cruz and Muelle del Rio street in Intramuros will reopen.

At least that is what the city government of Manila and the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission promised the Department of Public Works and Highways during a meeting the other day among city engineers and DPWH lawyers.

DPWH Assistant Secretary Rafael Yabut said the two major roads should be opened to both pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

When asked when the roads will be reopened, Yabut answered: Perhaps before Christmas or hopefully earlier than that. They should be opened to traffic and public use upon the completion of the beautification projects," Yabut told The STAR in an interview.

Yabut said City Hall officials claimed the bricks on the road have good quality and could stand even the weight of delivery vans.

He also said the Manila officials also denied reports about the permanent closure of the two vital arteries of the city road network.

"They said there is no such thing as a total closure. The projects are meant to make those areas more beautiful while emphasizing the pedestrianization program," Yabut said.

The DPWH official admitted that the Manila City government did not consult the department about the projects and their plans on the flow of traffic upon the completion of the projects.

Yabut and DPWH-NCR Director Ramon Aquino met with Manila City Hall officials, legal officer Melchor Monsod and Engr. Armand Andres to shed light on the confusion arising from the closure of Muelle del Rio and Rizal Avenue.

Earlier, a legal opinion from the DPWH legal department was leaked to the press, forcing the agency to openly take notice if the supposed violations of the projects.

According to the opinion, the city cannot permanently close a national road like the 500-meter portion of Rizal Avenue and Muelle del Rio without public consultation.

However, Yabut said the city government had complied with the public consultation requirement while promising to reopen Rizal Avenue after works are completed.

Yabut said the local government also vowed to ensure smooth flow of traffic in the alternative routes.

During the meeting, Monsod insisted that there was no violation of the provisions of the Philippine Highways Act since the roads were not withdrawn from public use.

"We must develop the road under the Buhayin ang Maynila program of Mayor Lito Atienza to maximize their use by the public," Monsod said in a statement.

He stressed that there would have been violation of the law if the said roads were withdrawn from public use and converted for the exclusive use of private entities.

He added that DPWH officials appeared satisfied with the clarification made and even expressed appreciation over the city government’s effort to redevelop the revive many areas in Manila that have been overtaken by urban blight.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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