CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY, Philippines – For almost 6 decades, the towns of Wa-o and Amai Manabilang in Lanao del Sur have been isolated from its mother province and its capital city of Marawi – the country’s lone Islamic city and seat of one of the biggest state universities, the Mindanao State University.
Though Wa-o is just about 55 kilometers away in air distance from Marawi, people that need to travel between the towns and the city need to traverse close to 400 kilometers, passing through the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Misamis Oriental, the city of Cagayan de Oro, and Bukidnon province.
That would take almost 8 hours of land travel on a private vehicle, and more if one is taking a public transport.
That changed in early April, when the 75-kilometers, two-lane concrete national highway was opened to connect the town of Wa-o and Amai Manabilang (formerly Bumbaran) to its home province. Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr led its inauguration.
It took 6 decades and 7 Philippine presidents – from Diosdado Macapagal to Benigno Aquino III – to finally build the national highway, which residents and local leaders called a “dream road” project.
The project was funded with P485 million 2011, with constuction starting in 2012, but its blueprint started in the late 1950s, when then Senator Ahmad Domocao Alonto Sr lobbied for it.
According to engineer Mickey Macabantog of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in Northern Mindanao, of the 11.6 km unpaved road, 4.5 kilometers is now paved after the DPWH region 10 got its 255 million budget for the road this 2016.
The remaining 7.3km will be included in the 2017 fiscal budget.
Macabantog said that an additional P152 million pesos is needed to upgrade 5 bridges along the national highway.
The P152 million pesos is being included by the DPWH in Region X in its proposed budget for 2017.
Macabantog described the existing bridge as “sub-structure” concrete bridge that needs to be upgraded to steel bridge to comply with standards.
Economic gains expected
After the road was opened, it only took one and a half hour for the convoy of Governor Adiong to reach Wa-o and Amai Manabilang towns from Marawi City, a far cry from the old, tricky 8-hour travel.
Taking the public transport to get to Wa-o and Amai Manabilang before entailed 5 terminal transfers : from Marawi City to Iligan City south-bound terminal then to Iligan City north terminal to Cagayan de Oro west-bound terminal to East bound terminal in Agora Market, and finally to Wa-o and Amai Manabilang town terminals.
Jennie Tamano, public information officer of Lanao del Sur, said that people of the province will now have more access to economic opportunities.
“This road will open access for our farmers in the province to transport their produce to Bukidnon, Davao, and Cotabato regions,” Tamano said. “It would cost less for us to transport our goods to other regions. It also opens new opportunities – economic, agricultural, and tourism prospects would bring more work and development opportunities for the people.”
Tamano added that the new road also cut the travel time to Davao City to just 5 hours. – Rappler.com