Tupi town eyed for Japan-funded road project

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/13 August) — The Japanese government is considering the municipality of Tupi in South Cotabato as beneficiary of its continuing community development program for conflict-affected areas in Mindanao. Julgen Dajay, Tupi municipal planning and development officer, said

Executives from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) visited the town recently to explore possible linkages for the implementation of the agency’s Labor-based Routine Barangay Road Maintenance (LBRBRM) project in the area.

LBRBRM is part of the capacity-building initiatives funded by JICA in support of the Mindanao peace process. During their visit, Dajay said the JICA representatives led by public facilities planning expert Yoshiki Aoyama and construction supervisor Noriyuki Aoyagi initially assessed the possible areas where the project could be implemented.

“They evaluated our infrastructure development plans, particularly for roads, and the priority areas for road construction,” he said.

If chosen for the grant, Dajay said Tupi will be the only LGU-beneficiary outside of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Dajay said the JICA officials conducted a briefing on “actual methodologies of the LBRBRM scheme, implementation structure of labor-based technology (LBT) and budget requirements for road construction plans through the LBT.”

“Considering the stiff competition among other local government units  (LGUs) for the JICA grant, I think we have better chances of getting it since we’re not new to such program model,” he said.

The official said the local government was a recipient several years ago of development program that had the same concept as that of the LBRBRM project.

If chosen for the grant, Dajay said Tupi will be the only LGU-beneficiary outside of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

He said the LBRBRM project may be implemented in the form of grant for road maintenance tools and heavy equipment.

“The program’s main objective is to provide safer trails or roads, ensure greater market access for local products and promote sustainable community development,” he said.

Aside from the JICA project, Dajay said the local government is also looking at availing additional grants this year from the United States Agency for International Development-funded Growth with Equity in Mindanao or GEM program.

In the last six years, the program has poured in around P32 million worth of infrastructure investments in 15 barangays in the area, he said.

“The GEM program has improved agribusiness competitiveness through the provision of better access roads, bridges, solar driers, trading centers, waiting sheds and other community-based projects,” he said.

Dajay said GEM’s agribusiness assistance will finally end this year and they’re hoping for the extension of another grant from the agency.  (Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)