Build, Build, Build: Speeding up infrastructure development

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The Zamboanga City bypass road project is a 36.77-km road project that involves the construction /road opening/ Improvement / road concreting of a 12-meter wide, two-lane road with slope protection including the construction of six bridges. -- Photo:

THE ADMINISTRATION of President Rodrigo R. Duterte has been more particular on improving the country’s infrastructure.

Days before they assumed office, Mr. Duterte and his economic managers said in a business conference that they aim to accelerate annual infrastructure spending to an equivalent of five percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017 alone, increasing to 7.45% of GDP when the administration ends its six-year term in 2022.

In line with the government’s plan to usher the country into the “golden age of infrastructure,” the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has embarked on pushing Mindanao’s potentials in terms of enhancing mobility and connectivity.

Out of the 24 DPWH projects in the “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure push, six will be built in Mindanao. These will cost the government P112.58 billion and are expected to be accomplished during or shortly after Mr. Duterte’s term.

The Mindanao Logistics Infrastructure Network (MLIN) is the biggest among DPWH’s major projects in Mindanao.

Karen Olivia V. Jimeno, DPWH Undersecretary for Legal Affairs and Priority Projects, said the MLIN tops the department’s priorities.

“[W]e’re really prioritizing the completion of the Mindanao Logistics Infrastructure Network since this will further attract potential investors who might opt to set up their business in the region,” Ms. Jimeno said in a recent e-mail.

According to information on the Build Build Build Web portal, the MLIN aims to better interconnect Mindanao’s regions via an intermodal logistics system, thereby enhancing the island’s agribusiness competitiveness. The P80.41-billion project, which will be funded through the national budget, is expected to be finished in December 2018.

“MLIN is composed of smaller projects which shall all be constructed with equal urgency since each of them forms part of the envisioned seamless road system in the Mindanao region,” Ms. Jimeno explained.

Another big-ticket project for Mindanao is the Davao City Bypass Road.

Once completed by end-2022, the road is estimated to cut travel time via Pan Philippine Highway and Diversion Road to 49 minutes from an hour and 44 minutes.

The first phase of the project will cover 28.8 kilometers (km) and will be funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, while the second phase will consist of 44.6 km and will be funded by the government.

“The bypass road will connect Toril (in the south of Davao City) through Barangay Magtuod to Panabo (City, Davao del Norte). The first phase will stop at Magtuod, which will host two tunnels,” Davao City Planning and Development Office Chief Ivan C. Cortez said in an August interview.

Still another — the Zamboanga City Bypass Road — is a 36.77-km project that will link Zamboanga City’s east and west coasts.

Aside from the road component, the project will also see construction of six bridges.

The project costs around P2.23 billion — to be funded by the national budget — and is expected to be finished in December 2018.

On the other hand, the 57 km East-West Lateral Road project — which will also have six bridges — will connect the provinces of Agusan del Sur and Bukidnon. Construction of the road — targeted to be opened to the public in April — will cost P4.87 billion.

Meanwhile, the P400-million Pinguiaman Bridge in Sultan Kudarat will be 600 meters long and is one of the alternate routes going to Cotabato City and Midsayap, North Cotabato.

Ms. Jimeno said the route can also be used going to other municipalities in Maguindanao and Sultan Kudarat.

The Panguil Bay Bridge, for its part, spans 3.48 kilometers and, once completed, will connect the city of Tagum in Misamis Occidental and municipality of Tubod in Lanao del Norte.

The project is funded under a loan agreement with the Korean Economic Development Cooperation, and is expected to be completed in December 2020.

Despite the ambitious plans of the government in the “land of the promise,” hurdles are inevitable, Ms. Jimeno said.

“One main issue that we’re currently facing in pushing through with our projects is the security threat brought about by the terrorists and rebels,” she said, citing the recently concluded siege in Marawi City.

The five-month battle against the Islamic State-inspired militants have not only cost lives of soldiers and civilians, but has also displaced more than 350,000 people and reduced the city into rubbles.

In a separate interview, DPWH Undersecretary for Visayas and Mindanao Operations Rafael C. Yabut said the final master plan of the Marawi rehabilitation will be implemented after the post-conflict assessment has been accomplished.

“As of to-date, the post-conflict needs assessment for Marawi City and other affected localities is still ongoing,” Mr. Yabut said in an e-mail.

“DPWH is actively involved in the quick-response activities to improve living conditions of the internally displaced persons in various evacuation centers.”

Mr. Yabut added that the department is also developing the site that will house transitional shelters in Sagonsongan, Marawi in collaboration with the National Housing Authority and local governments among others.

Aside from the construction of transitional shelters, the DPWH intends to accomplish the following projects for Marawi next year:

• demolition, clearing and hauling of debris from Marawi City to designated disposal areas after construction of access roads leading to these areas;

• repair of damaged roads and bridges, such as crack and joint resealing, pothole patching, lane markings, painting of bridges and drainage de-clogging;

• major repair, rehabilitation and construction of school buildings (in coordination with the Department of Education);

• and construction of the city public market.

For architect and urban planner Felino A. Palafox Jr., the government should build new hubs outside Marawi, while the city is being rehabilitated.

“We [should] create new cities outside Marawi — new cities that are master-planned, Islamic… smart, safe and sustainable,” Mr. Palafox said in an interview.

Mr. Palafox noted that, after the second world war, new cities outside heavily damaged Manila, such as Makati, were developed to supplement the old city. “While reconstructing Manila, the fourth most devastated [city] in the world, seven kilometers away, there’s Makati.”

Mr. Palafox added that some of Marawi’s ruins should be left to serve as a memorial.

“The cross-section of the roads should be a third for trees and landscaping, a third for pedestrians and bicycles, and a third for the moving traffic lanes,” he said, adding that power lines should run underground since overhead networks “makes our cities ugly and hazardous.”

And in order to deter terrorists and criminals, “[i]f possible, no high [and] concrete walls.”

“The high walls hid the rebels during the conflict. Beyond the walls, there were armories, tunnels and even [a narcotics] factory,” Mr. Palafox added. — K.A.N. Vidal