New farm road brings relief to T’boli mountain farmers
(The Philippine Star) - October 19, 2015 - 12:00am

SOUTH COTABATO, Philippines – For ages, the T’boli tribe people and settlers in the town of T’boli in the province of South Cotabato had to walk for hours under the sun or through rains in the rocky and muddy mountain trails while carrying heavy loads down to the town market. Farmers in the communities of Lam Buling, Lam Salome, and Maan had to sacrifice sweat and blood to earn their living.

But 40 years since the establishment of the municipality of T’Boli in 1974, the farmers of the town would finally benefit from a farm-to-market road that would connect their farms to the market, a significant change in life that raises their incomes and improves their mobility as well as the members of their families.

The Department of Agriculture, the Department of Interior and the T’Boli municipal government oversee the construction of a 13-kilometer concrete road network that by the end of the year would be completed. The P108-million road project is part of the national government’s Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana) Program, which is overseen and monitored by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process or OPAPP.

Another P21 million has been allocated to finance livelihood programs in Barangays Lambuling, Salome, and Maan, bringing the total Pamana allocation for T’boli to P124.5 million.

Tam Salambat, a former rebel who is now a village elder in Lam Salome, said he and his neighbors never imagined they would see a road built within their community within their life time.

“I thought death would come sooner than (the time would come we would see) these roads,” he said. “I am grateful to the government for giving us farmers this project because it is now easier to transport our produce to the town.”

 Bapa (Uncle) Tam said the farmers no longer have to walk for five hours while carrying their heavy load of produce on muddy paths in the mountain during the rainy days while it takes three hours of walk under the heat of the sun during summer to traverse the mountain trail. He said the road now makes it easier to shepherd their cows to the fields.

Today, it takes local farmers only 45 minutes to transport their produce to the market in downtown.

OPAPP Assistant Secretary Howard B. Cafugauan, head of the Pamana National Program Monitoring Office, acknowledged the effort of the local government to see through the implementation of the programs.

“We are heartened by the enthusiasm of the local government of T’boli in implementing this project because their active participation helped speed up the roll-out of the programs,” Cafugauan said.

Meanwhile, municipal agriculturist Olivia M. Miramon said the Pamana project was the most relevant for the farmers in the province among the programs implemented in the town of T’boli.

“The farmers were really grateful because it lifted such heavy burden from their shoulders. The transportation cost is now much cheaper because the roads have improved,” she said.

T’boli  Mayor Dibu S. Tuan said only the Aquino Administration gave this much importance to T’Bolis (a tribe in South Cotabato) since the town was founded 40 years ago.

“We never thought that we will have a 13-kilometer road finished in just one year. Forty years, and this is the first time we have received a program of this magnitude from the government,” he said.

The funds disbursed in the project are chargeable against the budget of the Department of Agriculture and was implemented through the local government office of T’Boli.

The Pamana aims to cover areas in Regions IV-B, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, X, XI, XII, XIII, ARMM, CAR and NCR through the Department of Public Works and Highways, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, Department of Agriculture, Department of Interior and Local Government, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, and Commission of Higher Education. For 2016, the proposed Pamana Program budget of all these national agencies amounts to P12.84 billion.

ACIRC AQUINO ADMINISTRATION ASSISTANT SECRETARY HOWARD B AUTONOMOUS REGION BOLI DEPARTMENT DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE GOVERNMENT LAM SALOME PAMANA SOUTH COTABATO
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