Aquino inaugurates Basilan road project
BASILAN – President Aquino flew to the volatile province of Basilan last week and inaugurated the completed 135- kilometer circumferential road project launched by the Philippine Army and the Department of Public Works and Highways during the time of President Fidel Ramos in the 1990s.
Aquino was accompanied by Governors Mujiv Hataman of the Muslim autonomous region and Jum Akbar of Basilan province.
The president’s visit came despite a series of bombings and 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 military also helped construct the road project which was financed through a concessional facility extended by Saudi Arabia. The circumferential road project was first launched by the military’s Southern Command under the Basilan Task Force and had stalled many times due to rebel attacks.
In 2014, the DPWH under Rogelio Singson accelerated the road development project in Basilan which is also funded by Saudi Arabia under the socalled 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 Filipino government provided a counterpart fund of 1.118 billion pesos.
The circumferential road project is seen as a major infrastructure initiative to lift Basilan from poverty and bring prosperity in the province as part of the government’s campaign against local terrorism and lawlessness in the area, state media said.
The DPWH said the completed concrete paving works was part of the 47- km construction and improvement project for the circumferential road costing about P1.567 billion. The project not only connects all towns of Basilan, but also reduced the travel time from 5 hours to only 2 hours and making it easy for farmers to transport their products.
Also in 2014, Abu Sayyaf leader Radzmi Jannatul attacked and killed 6 army soldiers who were sent to Sumisip to secure the area for the visit of Hataman and other officials. Among those killed in the November 2 attack in the village of Libug was 2nd Lieutenant Jun Corpuz, platoon leader of the Alpha Company of the 64th Infantry Battalion. Two other soldiers survived, but were wounded in the fighting that ensued.
A military investigation into the deadly attack by the al- Qaeda- linked Abu Sayyaf province showed that militants were targeting to kill the local army commander Colonel Roland Bautista, head of the 104th Infantry Brigade, and probably other government officials in his group who were due to inspect the government road project.
Corpuz’s team was patrolling the village when they engaged about 20 militants sparking a fierce gun battle that lasted almost 45 minutes. They said the Abu Sayyaf attack was meant to derail the completion of the circumferential road project.
The circumferential road project is seen as a major infrastructure initiative to lift Basilan from poverty and bring prosperity in the province as part of the government’s campaign against local terrorism and lawlessness in the area.