Driving on the national highways in Bohol these days bring in mixed emotions that are difficult to understand. To the uninitiated about the conditions of roads in the country sides seeing perfectly still good concrete national highways being repaired or reblocked brings in appreciation for what government is doing to make travel on the national highway perfectly smooth.
But people who come from the remote barangays and sitios who only pass on foot trails and dilapidated barangay road that sometimes not even a habal-habal would venture to traverse; such re-concreting or re-blocking of still perfectly good national highway evokes disdain if not abhorrence at the insensitivity of national government to the plight of the rural residents.
How government could prioritize the repair of good paved roads over the opening or rehabilitation of impassable dilapidated barangay roads is unthinkable as it contradicts sound reason. I have written about this before and I am writing about it again because despite the explanation of engineers that those portions of the national highway are due for repairs as they are more than 20 years old notwithstanding their looks in good condition does not warrant the justification.
If national government has so much fund for repair of good roads, why couldn’t these be allocated as assistance to local government units for repairs and rehabilitation of barangay or municipal roads? How many kilometres of very much needed barangay roads could funds for these repairs of perfectly good national highways could finish? How many people especially farmers could benefit from the repair and rehabilitation of their impassable roads to enable them to bring their farm produce to better markets?
How many resolutions have barangay councils passed requesting for fund allocation but were not afforded because of wrong priorities of national government?
So now local governments, municipal and barangays, must look for the much needed fund somewhere else to extend the services of passable roads to the suffering folks living in the remote and rural areas.
It is good that there are other agencies and institutions that are looking after the needs of the “small people.” One of these is the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). Under its Integrated Natural Resources and Environmental Management Project (INREMP) DENR is making available to LGUs funds to rehabilitate dilapidated roads that lead to the project sites in the timberland areas.
Besides the Natural Resources Management interventions to restore the watersheds to their tip-top condition thereby contributing to climate change adaptation strategies, INREMP has a component on small rural infrastructure projects that LGUs within the identified watershed, (in Bohol it is the Wahig -Inabanga River Basin) could avail of thru their proposals. These infrastructures include the rehabilitation of barangays and farm-to-market roads that would lead to the NRM projects in the timberland, development of potable waters systems to service the country-side communities, and small water impounding for small size irrigated farms. For an equity or counterpart of 20% of the cost of the project, LGUs can have the project materialize.
This week the engineers from the Foreign Assisted Service Project Office of DENR Central Office and the National Project Coordinating Office of INREMP came to validate, together with the Provincial Technical Working Group (PTWG) of INREMP in Bohol, on-site the different infrastructure projects that were proposed by Inabanga, Danao, and Trinidad. They will come back next week to complete the validation of other proposed projects by the other municipalities.
But INREMP cannot fund all the barangay roads that needed the repair and rehabilitation. Its limited resources can only provide P183M for its infrastructure component in Bohol since the bigger bulk of its fund are allocated for NRM projects. The millions of pesos that are being spent for the repair and re-blocking of national roads could be realigned for the repair and rehabilitation of barangay roads this could go a long way in helping rural communities with their road problems. Sadly DPWH is only for national roads. What a pity. It is time Congress have a change of mind for small infrastructures to be included in the scope of DPWH.
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