Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and United States Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim led the site visit of a road and bridge infrastructure project completed under a $222.5 million US-grant that is now benefiting over 400,000 residents of Samar province by way of improved access to basic social services and increased economic opportunities.
Funded by the US foreign aid agency Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the Secondary National Roads Development Project (SNRDP) spans 222.23 kilometers of roads and 61 bridges that have all been completed as of September 2016.
Upon their arrival here on Monday, Dominguez and Kim, accompanied by Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, proceeded to the SNRDP marker at the Guiuan town proper and inspected the Buyayawon Bridge portion of the project.
The SNRDP, which was part of the MCC’s first Compact agreement with the Philippines completed in 2016, involved the construction and rehabilitation of roads and bridges starting from Barangay Buray in Paranas, Samar, which connects Northern Samar to Eastern Samar, and ends in the town of Guiuan.
This road project traverses 15 of the 22 municipalities in the province, which is located in the country’s eastern seaboard. The Taft, Eastern Samar to Guiuan, Eastern Samar road section of the project is the only access road to thirteen (13) coastal municipalities of Eastern Samar.
Eastern Samar, where the main sources of livelihood are farming and fishing, is now benefiting immensely from the project by way of increased economic and tourism activities in the province.
“I think a large part of the development of Eastern Samar has been due to the projects that were funded by the American people through their government. It has done wonders for the area,” Dominguez said after his visit to the infrastructure project.
Dominguez told the US Ambassador: “Please send back the message that your help is much appreciated by not only the national government and the local government but the local citizens as well in this area.”
Kim said the visit to the project “was truly a proud moment for me as the US Ambassador” even as he expressed the hope that America would continue to provide more projects to the Philippines.
“The United States has a long history of providing assistance but it is not often that we get to see the impact. It’s a wonderful thing what the MCC project here has been able to accomplish,” Kim said. “Thank you for being partners in this great progress.”
This project is among the development interventions that contributed to the rise of newly constructed commercial establishments such as hotels, fastfood stores, supermarkets, shopping centers and gasoline stations in Borongan City, Eastern Samar’s capital, according to a report by the International Finance Group (IFG) of the Department of Finance (DOF).
With the construction and improvement of roads and bridges under the SNRDP, travel time from Borongan City to Tacloban City in Leyte, the nearest highly urbanized city to the province, has been reduced from four to two-and-a-half hours, according to Evardone. This has led to an influx of local tourists in Samar and Eastern Samar, with the Samar Island Natural Park reporting a 100 percent increase in the number of visitors last year.
“Projects such as the SNRDP demonstrate the numerous multiplier effects and benefits that modern infrastructure bring to our rural communities. We thank the United States for funding this project,” Dominguez said after the inspection tour.
In 2013, the SNRDP served as a vital artery for first responders when supertyphoon Yolanda struck Eastern Visayas.
The project also covers a non-construction component, such as a tree-planting program in partnership with people’s organizations (POs) in the province, a community-based road maintenance program that provides employment to residents from poor households, the resettlement and compensation of persons affected by the project, and environmental and social mitigation measures.
Over 900,000 seedlings have been planted as of January last year by POs to replace the 7,729 trees that were cut to complete the project. The planted seedlings covering 931 hectares of land is 3 percent higher than the target of 773,900 trees, the IFG said.
The tree planting program employed 487 persons, of which 180 were women, while the road maintenance program has also provided jobs to poor families with funding support from the Road Board.
Besides engaging communities to take part in the SNRDP, the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH, also piloted several innovations such as employing women in non-traditional skills like welding and carpentry, and including an anti-Trafficking In Person (TIP) component as a requirement in the implementation of the project. The DPWH is responsible for implementing the SNRDP. (DOF)