LUNA, APAYAO – What used to be known as the lair of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New Peoples Army (CPP-NPA) in the Cordillera is now free from the presence of the rebel groups.
The key is the development of roads to their stronghold, revealed Governor Elias Bulut Jr.
Bulut in an interview said “part of the development is the peace advocacy. One of the reasons why probably there is no longer the existence of CPP-NPA in the province, because we focus, most of the developed areas now were the stronghold of the NPAs before. We address the concern of the people. The vital concern for us now is how to maintain the peace and order of the province.”
Marag Valley here, which was popularized in the movie of Edu Manzano’s “Col. Madarang” in the mid 1990s, used to be under the control of the rebel group. It is now a popular tourism destination with the people having their livelihood.
“That was our weapon why rebels got out of our place, like in Marag Valley. It now has a good road and has become a major tourism destination in the province. The people have their livelihood and Apayao now has a zero insurgency.”
Bulut relayed that about 15 years ago, the local government, led by Elias Bulut Sr. started to do an assessment of the province’s condition; looked at the numbers and tried to look into the factors affecting the slow development and how they can be addressed.
“After 2010, when we planned, we said we have to do something. One of the reasons we do not develop is because we do not have a good road map, a provincial road map system. We established our own road map system and we submitted all of these to the people who waived their road right of way.”
Using the plan, the provincial government submitted to the national government through the Department of Public Works and Highways a P55-billion road network plan that will link the upper and lower Apayao with that of the other provinces. At present, the national roads are 70 percent perfectly paved roads, unlike the 15 percent before the assessment was done.
“Fifteen years ago, you cannot imagine that you can do this to Apayao. It is a very ambitious program if a governor will plan for a road network needing P25 billion. Look at your statistics. You need P55 billion to develop Apayao so we connected lower Apayao with upper Apayao through the Pudtol-Luna-Cabugao road and we spent P600 million except for the bridges.
“Before, going to the lower or upper areas of the province, one has to pass through Tuguegarao, Cagayan going to Conner and Cabugao which have very narrow and unpaved roads, there were no connectivity between the municipalities.”
Because for decades the people of the province were clamoring for improvement and peace and order, they went on to waive their right of way so that roads can be constructed without issues, helping the national government implement road improvement projects without spending on road right of way, and use the money for road construction.
Bulut said they also simultaneously worked with the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) while providing livelihood opportunities.
As roads are being developed, Bulut said they are also exerting effort to invite hydro power companies to develop the province’s 3,500 megawatt renewable hydro power potentials. “Investors do not just ask for roads, they also want a stable power supply,” and right now, the province experiences power interruption every Thursday aside from the low voltage from 220 to 180 volts, destroying appliances, reason for the effort.
The governor said based on the provincial plans laid down as a result of the years of planning, Apayao slowly sees itself to further developing and hosting investors. “We do not stop developing the province, and we hope that there will be investors, good taxpayers in the province, if we can market, if we realize the potentials in the province specially the hydro.”
Investments in place, job and livelihood for the people, Apayao sees itself graduating as the second poorest province in the country and ending its 94 percent dependency from Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA). LIZA T. AGOOT / ABN
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