THE Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is speeding up the validation and geo-tagging of various infrastructure projects covered by a foreign-assisted project amounting to P18.4 billion, which will also benefit farmer-beneficiaries in Negros Island Region (NIR).Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano, who was in Bacolod City Saturday, said that since the administration of President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo, the government was not able to completely implement the “Tulay ng Pangulo para sa Kaunlarang Pang-agraryo” project, which was funded through acquiring credit with the French government.
Mariano said the government has been paying the loan proceeds amid the non-completion status of the projects, with prefabricated materials rusted at warehouses in Visayas and Mindanao.
“The new administration decided to continue the program as the government has still to pay the debts incurred ,” the DAR chief said, adding that “looking at the opportunity cost and having a clear direction on the implementation, these infrastructure projects would really bring huge social impact.”
Stephen Leonidas, regional director of DAR-NIR, told Sun.Star Bacolod that the region will greatly benefit from the project by connecting farms to the markets.
Leonidas said the project now called “Tulay ng Magsasaka Patungo sa Kaunlaran” includes bridge construction projects aimed at helping mainly farmers-beneficiaries in the areas where they need to cross rivers in order to transport their products.
In Negros, the DAR-NIR has identified seven priority-sites, mainly rural areas in the north and south portions of the island, including cities of Kabankalan and Cadiz in Negros Occidental, among others.
“We are looking at the huge social impact of these projects, including developments in the region’s farm tourism sector, interconnectivity, and bigger income generation opportunity for farmers which will all contribute to overall economic progress,” Leonidas said.
In terms of amount, it will still depend on the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), which will provide the estimated cost, he said.
Based on the set procedures, the DAR-NIR has first endorsed to DPWH Central Office the project plan for the region.
After the identification of project sites, a validation of the DPWH will follow. The implementing agency then has to make the program of works and detailed design prior to submission for endorsement of DAR Central Office, Leonidas said.
“I have informed Secretary Mariano last Saturday that the project for the region is already in his office and up for its action,” the DAR-NIR director said.
Leonidas added: “It is good that the department’s new administration has considered the need to continue the program which will further spur development in NIR as new region.”*