Aquino opens Basilan road project

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ZAMBOANGA CITY: President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Monday led the inauguration of the Basilan Circumferential Road amid tight security following Sunday night’s bombing in Sumisip town.

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Launched was the 135-kilometer circumferential road project undertaken by the Philippine Army and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) during the time of President Fidel Ramos in the 1990s.

In his speech, Aquino emphasized the extent of the country’s transformation under Daang Matuwid.

“As always, we stand firm in our commitment that no Filipino—wherever they live or whatever their ethnic, cultural, and religious background—be left behind in our collective pursuit of progress,” Presidential Communications Undersecretary Manuel Quezon 3rd quoted Aquino as saying.

Aquino was accompanied by Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and Gov. Jum Akbar of Basilan province.

The president’s visit comes after a series of bombings and an ambush on soldiers by the Abu Sayyaf late Sunday. One militiaman, Masital Indasal, was slightly injured in the explosion in Sumisip town where Aquino led local officials in the inauguration of the road project.

The circumferential road project was first launched by the military’s Southern Command under the Basilan Task Force but was stalled many times because of rebel attacks.

The P1.83-billion project not only connects all towns of Basilan, but also reduced the travel time from five hours to only two hours, that would make it easy for farmers to transport their products to the markets.

The new road network spans Isabela City, Maluso, Sumisip, Tipo-tipo, Tuburan, and Lamitan City, all in Basilan.

The military also helped construct the road project which was financed through a concessional facility extended by Saudi Arabia.

In 2014, the DPWH accelerated the road development project in Basilan under the so-called Mindanao Roads Improvement Project.

The army said a loan of 75 million Saudi riyals was extended on October 2005 – to revive the road project after being stalled for many years – while the government provided a counterpart fund of P1.118 billion.

The circumferential road project is seen as a major infrastructure initiative to lift Basilan from poverty and bring prosperity to the province as part of the government’s campaign against local terrorism and lawlessness in the area, state media said.

In 2014, six army soldiers who were sent to Sumisip to secure the area for the visit of Hataman and other officials were killed in an attack led by Abu Sayyaf leader Radzmi Jannatul. Among those killed was 2nd Lieutenant Jun Corpuz, platoon leader of the Alpha Company of the 64th Infantry Battalion.

WITH CATHERINE S. VALENTE

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