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Sulu folks benefit from ARMM 2013-2015 infrastructure projects

 • 14:42 PM Tue Apr 26, 2016
John Unson
Public works officials inspect one of dozens of ARMM infrastructure projects in the impoverished Sulu island province. (JOHN UNSON)

COTABATO CITY -- Residents of Sulu will not forget two leaders, President Benigno Aquino III and Gov. Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, for taking the cudgel to address the grinding poverty and security problems in the province.So underdeveloped is Sulu, which has 19 towns, that only about half of the province has electricity. It is also known throughout the world as sanctuary of the dreaded Abu Sayyaf and a harboring site for its Filipino and foreign captives snatched from nearby provinces and abroad.Most newly-constructed local arterial networks, classified as all weather roads,” started to connect farming enclaves to municipal markets in Sulu only in the past three years.Sulu folks now talk much about the infrastructure projects implemented in their province by the ARMM government during the period, done in a stream roller fashion” they have never before witnessed.A barangay elder, Hadji Faisal, said the two former ARMM governors from Sulu, Nur Misuari, founder of the Moro National Liberation Front, and Parouk Hussin, have not achieved even just one-fourth of what the Hataman administration had accomplished in terms of infrastructure development in the province from 2013 to 2015.Misuari and Hussin, who is MNLF’s foreign affairs chief, were at the helm of the regional government from 1996 to 2001 and, subsequently, from 2001 to 2005, respectively. If most voters in Sulu can only freely choose a candidate for regional governor on May 9, they would no longer want a Tausug to become governor of ARMM,” said a municipal councilor whose third and last term will end on June 30, 2016.Documents obtained from the ARMM’s Department of Public Works and Highways, supported with drone aerial photos, indicated that the regional government had constructed 120.69 kilometers of roads in the province from 2013 to 2015, now interconnecting peasant enclaves to municipal markets.Hassad Salibangsa, driver of a traditional Kway-kway,” a pedal-driven tricycle in Jolo for more than 20 years now, said life has been improving as a consequence of the concreting of old roads in Sulu and the construction of new ones by the DPWH-ARMM.Salibangsa had said, in a video documentary by the agency, it is more convenient and less tiring for him now to pedal his tricycle through concrete roads.Dozens of Kway-kway drivers in Jolo had confirmed earning more now compared to their daily collections before.The implementation of DPWH-ARMM projects in Sulu were jointly supervised by Hataman, his public works secretary, Engineer Don Mustapha Loong, and the two District Engineering Offices (DEOs) in the province.Reports obtained from state auditors monitoring ARMM’s infrastructure thrusts in the impoverished Sulu province showed the Hataman administration also embarked on 31 seaport projects to boost the productivity of local fishing communities.Sulu is known for its vast marine fishing spots frequented by boats rigged with nets from the Zamboanga peninsula and other parts of the country to catch sardines, mackerel and skipjack.Officials of the Department of Health said thousands of ethnic Tausug and Samah villagers in the province now benefit from the 49 water supply facilities constructed there by DPWH-ARMM in recent months.The facilities are scattered across far-flung areas in Sulu, the largest of them designed to supply villages in the provincial capital, Jolo, with clean water from springs nearby.A villager named Sherhan Taplani said his family now keeps enough supply of clean, potable water in sealed containers in their house, from a facility the ARMM government built for them. We are very grateful to President Aquino and to Gov. Hataman for all of these projects, which can help hasten the growth of our economy and perhaps address the nagging security issues besetting our communities too,” said a health worker, who asked not to be identified.The source said they could not openly acknowledge what the ARMM government had accomplished in Sulu in the past three years for fear of antagonizing provincial officials who have done so little in addressing the grinding poverty in the province.In Jolo town, the DPWH-ARMM constructed 15 flood control structures in the past three years, projects borne by flash floods that hit the area some five years ago despite its being above sea level.The agency, through the two DEOs in Sulu, also built 15 shore protection structures along seaside enclaves vulnerable to erosion.

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