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DAR chief turns over vital road to farmers

Catanduanes TribuneNo less than Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Rafael Mariano turned up in barangay San Isidro, San Andres to turn over a long-delayed but finally completed farm-to-market road to agrarian reform beneficiaries and the local government unit last Monday (June 26). Spanning 4.444 kilometers, the road project features 2.26 kilometers of concrete pavement, 2.1 kilometers of gravel road, and 84 meters of vented concrete spillway. It is supposed to provide a big relief for San Isidro residents, most of whom are farmers and agrarian reform beneficiaries, as they ford more than 10 river crossings that are dangerous especially during rainy season.

The secretary and his party arrived via commercial flight from Manila and was joined for breakfast at ARDCI Corporate Inn by Bishop Manolo delos Santos and Governor Joseph Cua. He then went to the DAR provincial office for a press conference and a dialogue with DAR personnel led by Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer II Alexander Teves.

A day earlier, Teves had welcomed DAR regional director Rodolfo Pangilinan and his staff. Undersecretary Sylvia Mallari was supposed to join her boss for the turnover ceremony but reportedly begged off a few days earlier due to a sudden commitment.

In San Isidro, Sec. Mariano led the ribbon-cutting ceremony and the unveiling of the marker, together with other DAR officials, Congressman Cesar Sarmiento, Gov. Cua, Vice Governor Shirley Abundo and members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, Mayor Peter Cua, District Engineer Elmer Redrico of the DPWH Catanduanes Engineering District, other provincial officials, barangay officials, representatives of Agrarian Reform Beneficiary Organizations (ARBOs), the Provincial Agrarian Reform Coordinating Committee (PARCCOM), the Provincial CARP Implementing Team and other guests.

In the evening, Mariano and company attended a dialogue and fellowship night with ARBO officers, PARCCOM members, representatives of CARP implementing agencies, and DAR personnel.

The road project was implemented under the Agrarian Reform Infrastructure Support Project Phase III (ARISP-III) funded largely by the Japanese government through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and intended to provide rural infrastructures such as irrigation facilities, farm-to-market roads, post-harvest facilities, and rural water supply systems to 54 provinces as well as Agrarian Information and Marketing Centers Development, Organizational/Institutional Development, and Agricultural & Agri-enterprise Development in the Agrarian Reform Communitiess through appropriate training and capacity building approaches.

It specifically sought to increase crop productivity in irrigated lands; develop viable agribusiness enterprises opportunities in 129 ARCs, thus improving technology, agribusiness linkages and provision of appropriate facilities; organize and strengthen People’s Organizations (POs) and improve connectivity between and among POs, cooperatives, resource institutions and business partners; improve the efficiency of commodity flow and mobility of people within, to and from the ARCs in support to agribusiness, livelihood and domestic activities; to improve access to and availability of potable water in the ARCs and strengthen Water Users Associations (WUAs) to operate and manage facilities; and, build upon and enhance existing project management and monitoring and evaluation systems.

For the Catanduanes project, DAR okayed the inclusion of the farm-to-market road, Level II potable water system, and a post-harvest facility in the Rural Infrastructure component; the organization of a primary cooperative and water users association for the Institutional Development component; and, abaca technology training-cum-production, lasa production, processing and marketing, and fish processing technology-cum-production for the Agriculture & Agribusiness Development component.

Intended to benefit 5,332 beneficiaries in the Burabod Agrarian Reform Community, the project was originally funded with P21,632,000.00, but during the bidding in 2013, Herbana Builders and Supplies submitted the winning bid of P17,735,344.00 or  nearly P3.9 million less.

The contractor began work on Nov. 5 that year but started incurring delays in January 2014, prompting the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to warn Herbana. During the formal groundbreaking ceremony on Feb. 18 attended by key DAR and DPWH regional officials, it was observed that the contractor was not at all doing any work.

By April 7, Herbana was already 36% behind its scheduled accomplishment and on May 2, the DPWH decided to terminate the contract. But this was not realized as the DAR regional office sought a coordination meeting between the parties to iron out the issues to get the project going. Herbana was given 42 days to catch up but managed to accomplish less than two percent, incurring a negative 53 percent slippage. It was subsequently recommended for termination by the end of September.

After a series of meetings and quantity surveys, public bidding for the remaining 51% of the work was conducted on Dec. 18, 2015, with JYM Construction and Supply winning the bid but the notice to proceed was delayed as DAR awaited the change of the project creditor until Aug. 2016.

The project was restarted the following month but was delayed again when typhoon Nina hit the province in late December.

Prior to the construction of the farm-to-market road, majority of residents walked from Mayngaway, crossing the same river seven times, due to limited transportation. There was also a high risk to peace and order due to an active insurgent presence.

As of last Monday, however, the project was still about 95 percent completed, with workers still to finish the remaining 30% of the embankment riprap. A bogged-down backhoe apparently abandoned for months lies blocking part of the road halfway to San Isidro, with the contractor reported waiting for parts so it could be repaired and moved out to allow excavation of the area on which the equipment stands.

A 200-meter stretch of pavement just out of Mayngaway proper is also showing signs of scaling of the concrete. On the descent to San Isidro itself via a gravel road, the incline is steep, with many of the vehicles that ferried the visitors to the barangay decided to go by the safer, easier route along the dried-up river.

However, the project is seen to reduce travel time and transportation costs of both passengers and agricultural products, provide easy and better access to the market and basic services, ensure safety of commuters, improve agricultural productivity and increase the value of the land, generate jobs, improve peace and security, and enhance the livelihood of residents.

The same project also brought potable water to Cabcab residents comprising 384 households, with the subproject costing P6.2 million completed by April 2013. Before, residents used to consume at least 30 minutes getting water from the nearest source, with the barangay regarded to have a prevalence of water-borne diseases like diarrhea.

Post-harvest facilities, including a solar dryer, costing P6.8 million were also constructed in barangay Datag, benefiting 97 farmers. The building is now being used as a processing center by the Bislig-Cabcab Multi-Purpose Cooperative for its members’ harvest of abaca fiber and lasa, aside from serving as an evacuation center during typhoons.

The Bislig-Datag MPC and the Cabcab Water Works and Sanitation were the beneficiaries of ARISP-III’s Institutional Development Component. On the other hand, the Agriculture & Agribusiness Development component provided trainings on abaca technology, production and nursery to nine farmer-cooperators, lasa production, processing and marketing to 10 fiber producers and 20 processors, and training on fish processing for 20 farmer cooperators in Cabcab and Codon.

Source: http://www.catanduanestribune.com/article/402O

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