Infrastructure development in strife-torn Mindanao is still a top priority of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), as it will receive the biggest allocation in the agency’s proposed P300-billion ($6.91 billion*) budget for 2015.
DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson said on Tuesday, July 29, the allocation for Mindanao is P63 billion ($1.45 billion) or 30% of the agency’s total budget for infrastructure program.
He said the funds will be used for the construction of roads that would “connect seaports, airports, and production areas” on the island.
At least 69% of Mindanao’s national roads remain unpaved, DPWH said in 2012.
“Road density (in Mindanao) is the lowest. It’s also the lowest in terms of the number of kilometers [of roads] that is concrete,” Singson said.
Mindanao’s infrastructure and power situation is scaring off foreign investors.
Mindanao’s huge tracks of rich land lure Japanese investors to start agricultural ventures in the island, Ochiai Naoyuki, First Secretary of the Japanese Embassy, said from the sidelines of the 2012 Mindanao Business Conference.
But the Philippine southern island’s image as a place of conflict also remains a concern, Naoyuki added.
Mindanao’s image problem has been attributed to the conflict between the government and Muslim separatist groups and terrorist organizations.
In his 5th State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, President Benigno Aquino III said that it is undeniable that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has been left behind in terms of development.
Thus, in the DPWH’s 2015 budget, P5.17 billion ($119.08 million) was set aside for infrastructure development in ARMM, the President said. The allocation covers the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Tawi-Tawi, and Sulu.
“One of the ways of boosting economic activity in the ARMM is by developing the region’s infrastructure system. With strategic roads and bridges in place, for example, we can improve access to and from the communities in the region and invite more commercial activity in those areas,” Department of Budget and Management Secretary Florencio Abad previously said.
Long-delayed infrastructure developments are also being completed in the ARMM. One of these is the Basilan Circumferential Road, which has been under construction since 2000 but is now nearing completion, Aquino said in his SONA.
In 2012, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board chaired by Aquino approved the change in scope, increase in cost, and implementation extension for the Mindanao Roads Improvement Project worth P1.71 billion ($39.41 million).
Earlier in July, DPWH reported that 28 projects were completed in Regions 10, 11, 12, and 13 in Mindanao – spanning a combined length of 101.98 km, Singson said.
Other regions in the country would not be affected by the bigger slice of the infrastructure budget going to Mindanao, Singson clarified.
“There is a bigger amount for everyone but the chunk would go to Mindanao,” he said.
DPWH is also set to roll off billions of pesos worth of projects in 2015 not only in national roads, but also priority projects concerning the water sector: drainage, water supply, and floor control. (READ: Aquino: More PPP projects awarded than past 3 admins) – Rappler.com
*US$1 = P43.39