Letters to the Editor

Focus on BARMM

The Philippine Star

The poorest of the poor Filipinos are in the BARMM region with more than 50 percent of them living on the poverty threshold.

NEDA Secretary Karl Chua in his February 2022 address to the Management Association of the Philippines noted: “While we have many projects, there is a lot of [spatial] inequity. There are regions and provinces that badly need projects…but hardly get it. We need to create a single unique project ID for all projects, whether they emanate from the national government, the Regional Development Council or the local government, so we can monitor projects from identification to completion.”

Some provinces have been deprived of such basic infrastructure as farm roads, bridges as access to their markets for years. The administration’s P9-trillion Build, Build, Build budget is for the skyways over Metro Manila, modern long-span roads and bridges linking key points in Luzon and the Visayas. The BBB, however, does not include farm-to-market linkages for small provinces and towns crying out for help. The Department of Public Works and Highways budget is supposed to fill that gap. We know why that is not happening too because in the budget distribution, instead of economic rationale as basis, local politicians dictate where the infrastructure goes.

Many residents in the rural areas of Mindanao, especially in far off Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces, for want of paved roads, travel within and around using bancas, outriggers and unpaved roads. What would we expect but that the localities remain impoverished, benighted and of low morale? For island nations like ours, good access roads within are priority needs, the only means of travel has been by sea around its circumferential length, from one barangay to the next since there are no good passable roads within. For decades, this has been so. Business has been stunted and municipalities have remained poor.

A kilometer of good concrete road according to civil engineers would cost P30-35 million; for a town with 30 kms. circumferential distance, building a lasting infrastructure of concrete roads might cost P1 billion. But look at what linking all these sitios and barangays with good roads will mean in the significant cut of time around the island and the new economic activities that will ensue. Inevitably, business development will go inward. A one-time lifetime infrastructure investment.

When would the Muslim communities in BARMM ever be given the chance to catch up with the rest of the country? – Marvel K. Tan, a Tausog, [email protected]


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