OPAPP rejects further delays to key Samar infra project
By Sarwell Meniano / Philippine News Agency
TACLOBAN CITY – The Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) is pushing for the completion of a road project that links rebel-infested areas of Samar and Northern Samar provinces amid construction delays in the past five years.
OPAPP Eastern Visayas program manager Imelda Bonifacio said on Tuesday they have rejected proposals to terminate some scope of the road work meant to connect the towns of Matuguinao in Samar and Las Navas in Northern Samar since funds are already allotted and the road network is crucial in curbing insurgency in these communities.
“Considerations delays are justifiable based on assessment since Las Navas is conflict-affected area and identified as mobility corridors (of rebels). We already have raised the expectation to the communities,” Bonifacio told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in a phone interview.
From 2016 to 2017, the central government has allocated funds for three phases -- PHP45 million, PHP120 million, and PHP200 million under OPAPP's Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Pamana).
Only the phase with PHP45 million allotment has been completed so far, while the scope of work with PHP120 million outlay was terminated in 2018.
The PHP200 million for the road opening of 16 kilometers stretch is now ongoing.
In 2018, the government released another PHP200 million for road opening activities.
“The problem is that the area for road opening is a rice field and very prone to flooding during rainy days. In fact, the box culverts built by a contractor were washed out due to strong current,” Bonifacio added.
Local officials are seeking endorsements for project extension from the Regional Task Force on Ending Local Communist Armed Conflict and the Regional Development Council.
The endorsement will be forwarded to OPAPP and the Department of Budget and Management within the month.
Under the new timetable, the target is to complete the project before the end of March 2022.
Las Navas, a fourth-class town in Northern Samar with a population of 36,621, has been the center of propaganda by several organizations linked to the Communist Party of the Philippines–New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).
Matuguinao, on the other hand, is a fifth-class town with a population of nearly 8,000.
At least 12 villages have been identified as formerly influenced by NPA. (PNA)