DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/01 January) – The three towns hardest hit by super typhoon Pablo – Baganga, Cateel and Boston – were already accessible by land travel via Mati, Davao Oriental with the river diverted to allow for passage of vehicles as of December 30, Governor Corazon Malanyaon said Monday night.
But the travel advisory for the governor may not have been updated because motorists said heavy rains rendered it impassable again as of 11 a.m. Monday.
View Alternate Route to Baganga in a larger map
Access to these three towns via Mati, seat of the provincial government, was cut off when seven spans of the Gov. Teodoro Palma Gil Bridge, also referred to as Manurigao Bridge in Caraga town, collapsed from the onslaught of logs and other debris a few hours after Typhoon Pablo made landfall in Baganga town at 4:45 a.m. on December 4.
Malanyaon told MindaNews Monday night that “may ginawa sila under the bridge na pwede daanan ng sasakyan” (they did something under the bridge to allow vehicles to pass) and that commuters, including a government TV crew and Lt. Col. Krishnamurti Mortela, commander of the 67th Infantry Battalion, had taken the route on December 30.
Mariano Alquiza, regional director of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) had earlier announced the construction of a bailey bridge to connect Caraga with Baganga, Cateel and Boston towns.
No bailey bridge has been constructed, according to Mortela who passed “via sa ilog. Na divert water sa other side (via the river. The water was diverted to the other side).
Apparently unaware that the area is not passable again, Malanyaon said Education Secretary Armin Luistro was going to take the route when he visits the schools in the three devastated towns on January 3, the first day of classes. Students in schools destroyed by the typhoon will be holding classes in “tent classrooms” which Malanyaon said, have all been installed.
The shortest route going to Baganga from Davao City is via Mati, a 290-kilometer, five-hour ride.
Malanyaon wasn’t able to proceed to the disaster sites on the first day because getting across the river was a problem. Communication lines were also cut off.
Commuters were able to pass through the day after the storm by riding a pumpboat across the river and commuter vans to get them to Baganga, Cateel and Boston.
But relief goods initially had to be sent by sea through Navy boats from Mati.
Trucks bearing relief goods and service providers for health, psychosocial processing, etc..take the longer land trip from Davao City through Cuevas, Trento in Agusan del Sur, passing through the hinterlands of Bislig City, Lingig town in Surigao del Sur and the towns of Boston and Cateel in Davao Oriental. Travel to Baganga from Davao City via this route takes seven hours across 320 kilometers.
A longer route, although on a better road network, is via San Francisco in Agusan del Sur, passing through Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur, Bislig City and on to Lingig in Surigao del Sur.
From Davao City, there is a shorter route than the Cuevas or San Francisco road, which is via the Compostela-Cateel highway, a five-hour ride spanning 220 kilometers. Although the road has been declared passable, travel on this road, especially if it rains, is rather risky as there are several landslide-prone areas along the way. (Carolyn O. Arguillas/MindaNews)