THE Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board of Directors has approved a $380-million loan to fund the rehabilitation of roads in the Zamboanga Peninsula in a bid to help bolster economic growth in Mindanao.

The Improving Growth Corridors in Mindanao Road Sector Project, ADB’s biggest infrastructure investment in the region, aims to widen and realign 280 kilometers (km) of national roads and bridges in the Zamboanga Peninsula region. The infrastructure will also be equipped with slope protection, elevated pavements and better drainage.

The project, which consists of rehabilitating three core roads and six non-core roads, is estimated to cost at $503 million, with the government to shoulder $123 million in addition to ADB’s financing.

“Improving roads in Mindanao will support the development of economic opportunities in areas such as agribusiness, ecotourism and logistics,” Jeffrey Miller, ADB principal support specialist in its Southeast Asia department, was quoted as saying in a statement.

Meanwhile, Richard Bolt, ADB Country Director for the Philippines, said this project will enhance roads in the region that need “upgrading and improvement.”

“The southern and southwestern side of the Zamboanga Peninsula, in particular, these areas are underserved with better roads. That’s very much what this project is about-to improve the efficiency and safety of selected sections of the road transport network in the area,” Mr. Bolt said in a press conference on Friday.

Mindanao’s road network is less developed than the national average, with only 70% of its roads paved versus 82% in Luzon and 89% in Visayas.

Mr. Miller noted that ADB is looking at finishing the first three core roads: Lutiman-Guicam-Olutanga Road, Alicia-Malangas Road and Tampilisan-Sandayong Road, by the end of 2020.

The other roads, meanwhile, is expected to be completed in 2023, noting that pre-construction studies for these are not complete yet.

“There will be construction starting by the end of the year or early next year, and then [we’re expecting the] roads [to be completed] until the end of 2023,” Mr. Miller said.

Aside from the road rehabilitation, the ADB assistance will help finance the engineering design and improvement of 300 km of national roads in Mindanao, which will be constructed through other projects.

The assistance will also strengthen the institutional capacity of the Department of Public Works and Highways in multi-year planning, fiscal accountability, and human resource management. — KANV