ARMM to put up new Basilan capitol

John Unson - Philstar.com

COTABATO CITY, Philippines - The Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is keen on putting up a new multi-million provincial capitol in Basilan as an icon of authority and strong governance.

ARMM’s infrastructure projects sprouted in Basilan the past three years, among them multi-million arterial road networks interconnecting peasant enclaves and a provincial circumferential road that cut by 12 hours what used to be a 30-hour overland orbit in the island province.

Engineer Soler Undug, chief of the Basilan District Engineering Office (DEO), credited for managing the projects of ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman in the province during the period, said there is now a 10-hectare lot, inside the defunct 4,000-hectare University of the Philippines (UP) Land Grant in Lamitan City, for the new provincial government complex.

The executive department of ARMM allocated just two weeks ago more than P20 million for the construction of the first two pioneer edifices in the complex, the schools division offices for Lamitan City and Basilan province.

The Basilan DEO and the office of ARMM Regional Education Secretary John Magno are to cooperate in overseeing the construction of the two buildings under an agreement with imprimatur from Hataman and his regional public works secretary, Engineer Don Loong.

Undug said the site of the new Basilan provincial capitol complex is located in a strategic spot inside the UP Land Grant, a large, diversified agricultural plantation established in the 1960s by the national government, now divided among Muslim and Christian land reform beneficiaries.

The center of the vast swaths of agricultural lands comprising the UP Land Grant is in Barangay Santa Clara, a densely populated area in Lamitan City.

The provincial capitol of Basilan used to be in what is now Isabela City, whose residents voted against the inclusion of the area, originally a small municipality, into ARMM’s territory during a plebiscite for the expansion of the autonomous region in August 2001.

The Hataman administration had also programmed the construction, starting this year, of a P1-billion “transcentral highway” that would connect the provincial capitol complex to far-flung towns, passing through forested hinterlands in the center of the island province.

The ARMM government had initially allocated P250 million for the development of the new provincial capitol complex, according to Undug.

“We are very grateful to the Hataman administration for its dedication in putting up these facilities and infrastructures which can accelerate the socio-economic development of Basilan,” Lamitan City Vice Mayor Roderick Furigay told The STAR on Sunday.

Hataman said he is confident this year’s infrastructure projects in Basilan will be accomplished according to specifications and timetable owing to the active cooperation between Undug and Loong.

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