Ilocos Sur’s ‘longest’ bridge
BIZLINKS - Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - May 7, 2013 - 12:00am

This time, Manuel Bondad sent me an e-mail not about rice, which is his pet topic, but about the “longest” bridge in Ilocos Sur, particularly in Cervantes, where his father was born.

Well, to say that Aluling Bridge is the “longest” bridge in Ilocus Sur deserves more explanation. Aluling is actually 180 meters long, and surely cannot qualify to being the lengthiest. In fact, Quirino Bridge in Bantay, Ilocos Sur is already 456 meters long. To understand what Bondad is talking about, here’s his letter.

Now, it can be told

Finally, the 180-meter Aluling Bridge in Cervantes, Ilocos Sur, now dubbed the “longest bridge” in the province, has been completed and inaugurated at last.

The Golden Gate in San Francisco, 2,737 meters long, was built in 1933 and opened in 1937; Aluling, only seven percent of the Golden Gate’s length, took 36 long years to “construct.” Now, it can be told!

In early 2011, members of Cervantes Association, USA (CAUSA) conducted a three-day medical mission from Jan. 31 to Feb. 2. The Balikbayans, in a 15-kilometer fun run, marveled at the newly completed two-lane concrete highway from the town of Tagudin in Ilocos Sur to Cervantes traversing winding Cordillera over breathtaking scenery, and the historic Besang Pass shrine.

Unfinished, unsafe

But they were dismayed at the unfinished, unsafe Aluling “Bridge” that was meant to link Ilocos Sur to Bontoc, Mt. Province and beyond that will not only reduce travel time but promote trade and tourism as well.

When Aluling was started in 1977, the Fil-Americans obviously were very young when they sought greener pastures in America, but are now ageing and mostly retired in the USA. CAUSA noted the columns were now being used to support a footbridge and not a bridge.

In 1998, work was started on a second parallel bridge. In a CAUSA letter to (Department of Public Works and Highways) Secretary Rogelio Singson dated July 20, 2011, the architects in the group were alarmed and remarked: “pre-cast concrete beams and girders irretrievably buried in the sand, and God-forbid, deteriorating, abandoned columns may fall over.”

In a letter of appeal to President Aquino acknowledged and received on July 22, 2011, CAUSA highlighted the need to restore the people’s faith and respect in their government and elected officials.

CAUSA concluded: “Please Mr. President, help the people of Cervantes get their long-awaited bridge come to completion. Only you can make their dream come true!” The residents’ wishes were finally answered after a long, long wait.

The Aluling Bridge’s completion demonstrates how concerned efforts among various stakeholders can do wonders to address a community’s concerns. A Petition to Finish Aluling Bridge with 16,754 signatories was presented to President Aquino as well.

Other signatories of the “Watch the Aluling Bridge” watchdog were the following: People of Cervantes, here and elsewhere around the globe; People of Mt. Province; Aluling-Baguio-Benguet Association; Pilipilian Association of People from Cervantes; People of Quirino, Ilocos; and Cervantes Migrant Workers-Hong Kong.

“The elderly Fil-Americans must be celebrating. Time to come home to Cervantes?”

Right to demand

That the Aluling Bridge, after 35 years, has finally been completed certainly deserves congratulatory remarks, first to Singson and P-Noy who presumably had promptly acted on the letter petition by Fil-Ams with Cervantes roots.

Definitely, the biggest kudos goes to CAUSA and other organizations that decided to unilaterally act to have the bridge completed. It should serve as a lesson, not only to the Aluling Bridge citizen stakeholders, but to all Filipinos that they have the right to demand from government what is due them.

Accountability

Aluling, however, brings two important issues to my mind. First, whatever happened that contributed to these two projects, both of which seem to have been abandoned? I dare say that the new completed Aluling Bridge now standing is already a third project with separate funding.

Where did the funds for the first project, which was started in 1977, go? The same question can be raised for the second attempt in 1998. Shouldn’t there be a mitigation process that will pinpoint accountability in these failed processes, and ultimately retribution either by having the amounts disbursed for the projects returned to the government coffers?

Secondly, how many other similar infrastructure projects – roads, bridges, ports, buildings, and many others – lie wasting and unfinished out there? It seems such a pity to see people’s money going to waste when the government has barely enough resources.

Transparency and empowerment

In this day and age when transparency in governance is already de rigueur of our local and national officials, the citizenry should be more vigilant not only in pointing out similar unfinished or delayed projects, but even those that had been constructed using substandard materials or in a sloppy manner.

It would be the ultimate to see the DPWH coming out with a list that accounts for every project it undertook starting at least with what projects are currently ongoing with full disclosure of the amounts appropriated, spent, disbursed and company that won the bidding.

And since we have a more empowered citizenry, let everyone be vigilant against “ghost” projects that have been fully paid for but unfortunately not a nail or stone had been actually bought to start construction.

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Should you wish to share any insights, write me at Link Edge, 25th Floor, 139 Corporate Center, Valero Street, Salcedo Village, 1227 Makati City. Or e-mail me at reydgamboa@yahoo.com. For a compilation of previous articles, visit www.BizlinksPhilippines.net.

ALULING ALULING BRIDGE BRIDGE CERVANTES GOLDEN GATE ILOCOS SUR MT. PROVINCE PRESIDENT AQUINO
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