Remodeling lonely Benguet barrios

>> Friday, October 7, 2016

March Fianza

The more frequently used roads to and from Baguio after World War II were the scenic Kennon and Naguilian roads that traversed the Benguet towns of Tuba and Sablan, respectively.
Food, clothing and construction supply went up and down these roads until the Ministry of Public Works and Highways repaired the Badiwan-Taloy dirt way into an all-weather two-lane cemented road. They named it Marcos Highway after the strongman President Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Marcos Highway did not serve as a substitute route for Kennon and Naguilian. In fact, it became the main thoroughfare for commercial bus companies and private cars who found the road to be safer.
Next, government ordered the installation of electric poles under its rural electrification program. A tourism and sports complex within a 355-hectare area was constructed by the Philippine Tourism Authority; residential houses, sari-sari stores, woodcarving stalls were built along the highway, and the rest is history.  
In almost all cases, development or community growth are acceptable results that immediately follow road construction. A classic example and most recent development was the rehabilitation of the Pico-Lamtang-Irisan and Tam-awan roads. Today, lot spaces on both sides of these roads are being developed privately even while prices per square meter have shot up.
“It is a rough road that leads to the heights of greatness”, it was said. Hence, Congressman Ronald M. Cosalan has not stopped focusing on the growth of remote barrios by opening more new routes that traverse Benguet communities.
I recall the words of the late Mountain Province Gov. Leonard Mayaen during his last press briefing that I attended last year. When asked about tourism programs of the government that are slow in coming, he said: “Just give us the roads and we will take care of development by ourselves.”
Just last month, Congressman Cosalan sourced out some P2.9 B funds for road and other public works through the General Appropriation Act of 2017. This time, bulk of the roadwork will be concentrated on opening a roadline to interconnect at least four Benguet towns – Tublay, La Trinidad, Sablan and Tuba.
The proposed road artery that is now on the planning table of the DPWH will cross Tuel in Tublay, pass through Triple “B” or Barangays Banengbeng, Balway, Bagong, and Kamog, all in Sablan, then exit to Naguillan Road.
Cosalan described that from Naguilian Road, the new roadline will enter a section at Monglo, Bayabas; go down to San Pascual in Tuba, then exit to Aringay, La Union.
When finished, the proposed roadline will practically serve as a circumferential and tourism road that will spur development in far-flung sitios. A catalyst for growth, so to speak.
For provinces in the Cordillera that have municipal populations that are concentrated in poblacion barangays, road and transport development are the vital factors that disperse the economy.
Roads are necessary in hauling goods as they are the arteries of trade; and after a long day’s work, it leads us safely home. Thus, the design of new roads that traverse our distant barrios are as important as the design of other infrastructures around us.
A road network has to be constructed not only as a necessary transport facility but should also protect and even enhance the beauty of the countryside. The DPWH has to construct a road system that is in harmony with its surroundings.
If I were to suggest and since it has been noticed that the youth and the middle age among us have become health conscious, government has to improve sections of the road network for tourists, backpackers, campers and cyclists.
It is high time, government planners establish healthy designs and principles that can help change the way we plan and deliver road projects. As a consequence, residents who were used to staying in remote sitios will feel the easy access, and barangay centers that are normally crowded will decongest.
Relative to the construction of the Tuel-Triple “B”- Kamog-Monglo-Bayabas-San Pascual road system, there is a need to focus on Barangay Ambongdolan which boasts of being the only village in Tublay that has caves within its jurisdiction.
Ambongdolan is home to two natural cave systems – the Paterno and Bengaongao caves. The area is a potential tourism hub that caught the eyes of Ms. Cara V. Cosalan, the congressman’s energetic wife and partner in so many of his development projects.
Aside from those who accidentally drop by, local and foreign tourists have visited this promising tourism spot that can be reached in an hour from La Trinidad.
 Except for a meeting that was initiated by Ms. Cosalan last week to inform barangay officials and residents about fixing tourism plans and for them to do their share, tourism activity in Ambongdolan is running on its own with no help yet from outside.
Government experts through Tourism Regional Dir. Venus Tan are also being tapped as the adjoining spots around the Ambongdolan Caves need to be improved as picnic and camp sites, hiking and biking trails, etc.
On the eastern front, the Labey-Ambuclao road system as an alternate route from Bokod to Halsema will be rehabilitated early next year. At the same time, Congressman Cosalan said, the Guisset-Binga Dam gate will also be widened and cemented.
These are all geared towards improving the lives of people most especially in far-flung barrios. Indeed, it has been repeatedly said that “the road to success is always under construction.”


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