South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance-Fuentes said the bridge, located in barangay Poblacion of this town, was among the projects completed this year under the “Tulay ng Pangulo” or President’s Bridge Program (PBP) for Special Zone of Peace and Development (SZOPAD) areas in Mindanao.
Fuentes said the project, which is a compact 200-type bridge, is considered the longest in the province and in Region 12 (Southwestern Mindanao).
The governor said the new bridge costs at least P96 million and was funded mainly by the PBP for SZOPAD-Mindanao.
She said the provincial government provided a counterpart fund of P12.5 million for the project.
Fuentes said the completion of the bridge was very important for the area as it will finally opened up several upland villages of Sultan Kudarat and South Cotabato provinces to the major trading centers.
She said local farmers may now transport their products to the markets at lesser time and at much cheaper cost.
“We’re hoping that more bridges like this will be constructed in our province to help spur our economic growth,” she said.
Sto. Nino Mayor Ervin Luntao said the opening of the bridge was a longtime dream of residents who had to wade on a deep stretch of the Allah River for many years just to get to the town proper.
“This is the biggest gift our municipality has so far received. It will certainly bring more development opportunities to our people, especially the farmers,” he said.
Bagumbayan Mayor Felipe Allaga said he hopes the bridge will usher in development as well as help maintain peace in the area.
The bridge connects barangay Poblacion of Sto. Nino to barangays South
Sepaka of Bagumbayan and Sitio Mudon and barangay Upper Sepaka in Surallah.
Barangay Upper Sepaka had been cited as one of the problematic areas of the
province due to the presence of rebel groups and criminals.
The Sto. Niño bridge was among the 25 steel bridges constructed under the P280-million infrastructure package for the area under the PBP for SZOPAD- Mindanao.
The PBP for SZOPAD-Mindanao is one of the three government bridge programs
assisted by the United Kingdom using the Mabey and Johnson modular steel bridges.
The other projects were the P4.5-billion Tulay ng Pangulo sa Salaam which ended in 2001 and the continuing P6.8-billion Tulay ng Pangulo sa Barangay, a nationwide initiative which also covers parts of Mindanao.
PBP for SZOPAD-Mindanao was estimated to cost at least P9.867-billion. (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)