Friday, October 16, 2009
Roads and Ruts
To travel by land in mainland Occidental Mindoro today is more hellish than Hades. The Patrick Section in Sablayan,- just completed in 2005, is now in full mess. See it your self and watch this video I stumbled upon the other day. The situation was brought about by series of typhoons, notably Jolina and Ondoy, that hit the country recently.
But overall, almost all of the roads in the province need special attention for they are narrow, rough and dusty during dry season, while during rainy season they are submerged in flood waters and mud due to erosion rendering them impassable. Like what we are experiencing in some of its sections as I write this. But there is an on-going road construction project elsewhere.
The ambitious road construction program in Occidental Mindoro started in 1981. It is a component of the Philippine Government's Rural Roads Improvement Program, supported by a $62 million loan approved by the World Bank (WB) to Marcos government. That year the construction of national road began connecting the 170.6 kilometer-road from San Jose to Mamburao. In the early 80’s, said project was marred by problems in many aspects like severe mismanagement, inadequate planning, corruption and over-bureaucratization. The road construction program was part of the Mindoro Integrated Rural Development Program or MIRDP. The project is not completed due to different reasons,- both natural and man-made, rolled into one.
In January 7, 1999, the Loan Agreement No PH-P188 was signed and paved the way for the Mindoro West Coast Road Improvement Project. The total loan amount was 9,621 Million Yen from the Japan International Cooperating Agency (JICA) and the executing agency is the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). The project was “completed” in December 2005. The infrastructure includes construction of Busuanga Bridge, the road junction to Rizal, some road pavements in Sablayan, San Jose and Mamburao sections,- among others. Including the now devastated Patrick Pass. Sadly, all we got is a “chop-chop” project while we,- the taxpayers, deserve more than that.
In its brighter side, there are on-going road construction projects (of the national highway) in municipalities of Rizal and Calintaan being implemented by DPWH. This was made possible by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo through the initiative of our representative in Congress. But I am not so sure if the master plan is religiously and rigorously followed. Also, if the full amount allotted to the project truly served its purpose. I do not have the authority and capacity to monitor it.
Any land development projects like putting up of roads and bridges in landslide and flood- prone areas like the Patrick Section, need more than civil engineering. Citing the recent catastrophic flooding in Metro-Manila, Francis delos Reyes III, associate professor of Environmental Engineering at North Carolina State University has this to say : “The lessons are clear. We cannot continue to alter land use patterns without expecting changes in other things, such as water flows. We need to educate civil engineers and local governments on storm water issues, basic hydrology and water resource engineering.” For sure, the haphazard infrastructure development in Occidental Mindoro is not just an engineering problem. It is also a problem of governance and basic social services. It is on how we wisely spend our public fund for the common good. Surely, we cannot win against water with sediments but we can win against greedy politicians and contractors. That is if we form ourselves into watchdogs minding such well-funded government projects.
Because what we deserve is a reliable and stable road against disasters generated by the rivers, which reduce travel time and vehicle maintenance cost and ensure the safety of the road users and commuters. Complete and fully cemented road and bridges that would not take more than 5 hours from Magsaysay to Abra de Ilog. (And don't wake me up. For God's sake, I'm dreaming!)
What we need then is a committed citizens’ arm to monitor,- based on guidelines provided by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and Department of Budget and Management (DBM), government infrastructure projects such as roads and bridges; monitor performance of elected local officials and government instrumentalities. A group of non-partisan women and men that would organize communities and help in citizenship building; a social advocacy group aimed to popularize the issue through mass media and help form public opinion, etc., and resort to legal actions if necessary. We need the support of generous organizations of Mindorenyos world-wide to finance this cause. We need a new breed of idealistic and dedicated human beings not completely identified with any of the two reigning political Goliaths.
Figuratively speaking, we deserve new roads and new ruts. For the old road just led us to phenakism…
(DZVT File: Taken at Patrick Section in Sablayan; 12 October 2009)