Cementing peace, progress through gov’t infra

CABADBARAN CITY, Agusan del Norte — Indigenous Peoples will start traversing the pavements that will bring peace and progress to their communities, as 11 roads were successfully constructed in Caraga Region.

IPs will no longer walk and trek on rough, dirt, mud and dust to reach and access government services, for their livelihood, daily endeavors, among others as newly cemented roads were constructed under the PAyapa at MAsaganang pamayaNAn (PAMANA) Program spearheaded by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Caraga .

To cement this significant accomplishment, OPAPRU Secretary Carlito G. Galvez Jr. attended the ceremonial turnover of the said completed projects on July 28, 2023 at Sitio Lusong, Barangay Puting Bato, Cabadbaran City in the province of Agusan del Norte.

Agusan del Norte Governor Maria Angelica Rosedell Amante, Department of Public Works and Highways Caraga Assistant Regional Director Alex Ramos, and Presidential Peace Adviser Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. (2nd, 3rd & 4th from left) lead the turnover of road projects in Sitio Lusong, Barangay Puting Bato, Cabadbaran City, Agusan del Norte on July 28, 2023. The road projects will benefit residents who are mostly Indigenous Peoples in the area.. (Photo: OPAPRU)
Sec. Galvez acknowledged the big contribution and effort of the provincial government stating, “The successful completion of this project was made possible by the combined efforts of the government leaders and stakeholders who have been committed to bringing development to Agusan del Norte.”

The secretary also recalled that the IP communities in the area are good people who deserved goodness from the government. Accordingly, he had an experience in the area and witnessed how the people of Sitio Lusong, Barangay Puting Bato, helped him and his comrades when they were operating in the far-flung mountain areas.

DPWH Caraga disclosed the stratagem behind the 11 road projects which were funded from 2017 to 2018 under the PAMANA Program, comprising of two farm-to-market-roads, six roads with bridges, two roads and one road rehabilitation which are all located in the provinces of Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur. The infra projects had a physical target of 19.649 kilometers (km) for road concreting, 34.951 km for road gravelling and 305.8 lumen (lm) for bridge construction with 54.906 km of project completion. The work kicked off in 2018 and was gradually completed the following year and until 2021, with a total project cost of P1,533,468,449.50.

Poorest, war zones

One of the milestone projects is the Cabadbaran-Puting Bato-Sitio Lusong road with a bridge that connected the provinces of Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Sur and linked the Barangay Puting Bato, Cabadbaran City to the town of Lanuza, Surigao del Sur. This infrastructure project changed the lives of the IPs and transformed their communities from decades of insurgency to zones of peace and progress.

Barangay Puting Bato is located in Cabadbaran City, Agusan del Norte, a home to indigenous peoples from Manobo and Mamanwa tribes, who dwell in its mountainous landscape and isolate the inhabitants by its rich forests, flora and fauna. This topography gave ample room for insurgency to root and reach the other side of the province in Lanuza town, Surigao del Sur, another comfort zone of the communist terrorist groups.

Cabadbaran-Puting Bato-Sitio Lusong road with a bridge that connected the provinces of Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Sur and linked the Barangay Puting Bato, Cabadbaran City to the town of Lanuza, Surigao del Sur. (Photo: PIA Caraga)
Insurgency did not miss a chance to exploit the lives of the IPs and made them poorest and antagonist to peace.

Agusan del Norte Governor Ma. Angelica Rosedell M. Amante showed indebtedness to OPAPRU and other participating agencies for the completed project, which manifested the government’s commitment to improve communities and empower vulnerable individuals such as the IPs.

The governor also earnestly requested the constituents of Barangay Puting Bato not to be easily deceived by the new people’s army (NPA). She emphasized the government’s commitment to improve their lives and urged them not to believe in deceitful propaganda.

“Nakita naman gyud nato sa atong mata kung unsa ang pagpaningkamot sa atong gobyerno padulong gyud ug para gyud ni sa inyoha tanan. Walay rason nga kung naa pa motuktok sa inyong balay, moingon nga awayon nato ang gobyerno, ayaw mo tuo ug bakakon ang gobyerno, walay rason nga motuo pamo sa ilang panglinlang sa inyo [You have seen how the government works for you, this is for all of you…there is no reason for you to support the terrorist group],” she emphasized.

“As your governor, I will use the power given to me and work to uplift your living condition, you will see more of these roads for peace and progress,” she added

Ray of hope for the IP communities

Eddie Enriquez, an IP leader of the place, expressed his happiness to the completed road project as his four children will now have comfortable road to walk on going to school saying, “Wala nay lapok ang mga tsinelas sa ko mga bata padulong sa eskwelahan kay cementado naman ang dalan. Gusto na cila moeskewela pirmi para makahuman cila. [ The footwear of my children will now be free of mud since the road is already concrete. They are excited and motivated to go to school].”

“Nakabinipisyo pod ug pag-ayo ang mga tao sa amung lugar, sa panahon nga magsaka kami sa bukid sa among kaumahan dili na kami maglisud pa ug sa panahon pod sa ting baha o ting ulan dili napud maglisud ang mga tao, kay sa unang panahon nga ting baha ang mga tao sa amung lugar walay pagkaon…makakaun lang ug naay mag pugos ug langoy sa maong baha aron mangitag pagkaon sa bukid, adesir pa makakaon ang mga tao. Karon dako na kaayo’g kabag-ohan ang amung lugar, kay sa panahon ting baha o ulan dili na mag lisud pagkuha ug pagkaon tungod sa tulay ug dalan nga gihimo sa gobyerno [Farming is made easier for us especially our farm equipment and ruminants. We will no longer be hungry during bad weather and if there is flood because we have a safe road to pass by and bridge to cross],” added Enriquez.

This completed infra project in Barangay Puting Bato opened opportunities for residents especially the local farmers who are now close and constantly visible to the market sites hence, making them more productive and efficient in their livelihood.

Residents of Barangay Puting Bato, Cabadbaran City in the province of Agusan del Norte during the turnover of road projects at Sitio Lusong. These road projects will help the communities in transporting their goods for livelihood and they will have closer access to services of the government. (Photo: 29th Infantry Battalion, Philippine Army)
Bae Leonida C. Rebollo, barangay indigenous peoples mandatory representative (IPMR) of Puting Bato, Cabadbaran City, expressed her appreciation to OPAPRU and the DPWH for the concreting of road that made it easier to bring their farm products to the market.

“Dali nalang kayo sa amoa ang pagdala sa among produkto sa mercado, dili nasad gastos [We can easily transport our products to the market with affordable and available transportation in our area],” she said.

Agusan del Norte IPMR Randy Palay Catarman narrated how IPs previously struggled if a member of the community was sick. It was very difficult to bring a sick loved one to the hospital or clinic for medical assistance when the road was still in its poorest condition.

“Daku akong pasalamat sa gobyerno, tungod kay nahatagan na ug kahigayonan aron hinayhinay nga makab-ot ang katumanan sa among mga pangandoy labi na sa panahon sa emergency [I am grateful to the government for this project as this is a big help especially during emergency],” said Catarman, now 53 years old with three children.

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