Simeona Mahipos, 66, wakes up at 2 a.m. to catch the first trip going to Daet to bring her farm produce to the market. A farmer-resident of Brgy. Mangcamagong, Basud, Camarines Norte for 17 years, she sells sweet potato, bananas and cassava from 5 a.m. onwards to buy food and other commodities for her family. As a housewife and grandmother, she is expected to be home before 9 a.m. to do household chores and tend to her three grandchildren.

This routine is now easier for Mahipos with the ongoing construction of the 38-kilometer Pinagwarasan to Lanot Farm-to-Market Road in Basud and Mercedes, Camarines Norte.

“Dati, pag tag-ulan lagi kaming binabaha. Hanggang tuhod ang baha dito sa kalsada. Mahirap ang pagdala (ng mga produkto). Ngayon hindi na kami nahihirapan sumakay kaya madali na naming nadadala sa palengke ang aming mga produkto, pwede na naming ibenta agad (Before, our area was prone to flooding. Flood used to reach up to knee-level. Transporting our products was a struggle. Now, it is easier for us to commute thus, we can easily bring our products to the market and sell them.)” Mahipos said.

Inspiring farmers to plant more, produce more

Mahipos said that due to difficulty in transporting their products, she was discouraged to continue farming. But the development that she is experiencing now inspires her to plant more crops and produce more farm products.

“Dati hindi na kami nagtatanim masyado dahil mahirap nga po ang pagdala. Sa ngayon po na maganda na ang kalsada eh di lalong dadagdagan namin ang aming pananim para umunlad ang aming pamumuhay. (We limited our crop production because of difficulty in transporting our farm produce. Now that we have a better road, we are motivated to cultivate our agricultural area and plant more to improve our quality of life.)

With 16.89 percent physical progress as of May 15, 2017, the benefits of the Construction/Rehabilitation of Pinagwarasan-Lanot FMR in Basud and Mercedes, Camarines Norte are now being felt by the communities in the road influence area.

“Noong una po ang kalsada po namin dito sa Brgy. Pinagwarasan papunta ng Lanot ay sobrang baku-bako, lubak-lubak nahihirapan yung mga sasakyan kaya yun ang problema namin dito sa aming barangay. Talagang malalalim po yung lubak-lubak dyan oras ang bibilangin mo bago makarating sa pupuntahan. Ngayon, malaki na po ang pagbabago ilang buwan pa lang ang nakararaan simula nung tag-ulan (Before, our road from Brgy. Pinagwarasan to Lanot was rugged and uneven, vehicles have difficulty traversing it. That was a problem in our barangay. There were very deep potholes and it took hours before reaching one’s destination. Now, a few months after the rainy season, much have changed.),” Noli Samonte, barangay chairman of Pinagwarasan, Basud, Camarines Norte shared.

He added that transporting farm produce like copra is now easier and faster. Unlike before PRDP’s intervention when traveling takes one day.

“Madali nilang mailabas yung produkto nila papunta sa bayan ng Daet. Pag mamamalengke sila, mas madali nang makabalik kasi mas maganda na ang kalsada (Farmers can now easily transport their products to Daet, the town proper. They can go back earlier from the market because they now have a better road.)” he furthered.

Another benefit of the PRDP subproject, according to Samonte is that businessmen are now coming to Basud and Mercedes. Land buyers are now interested in developing the area because it has become more accessible.

Active Grievance Redress Mechanism
In January 2017, Samonte was among the 13 barangay chairpersons who signed a grievance and inquiry letter expressing concern and queries about the status of the Concreting of Pinagwarasan to Lanot Farm-to-Market Road in Basud and Mercedes, Camarines Norte.

A management meeting was immediately called for by PRDP South Luzon and PRDP-Bicol with their local partners in Camarines Norte and other stakeholders involved in the farm-to-market road sub-project, including the 13 barangay captains concerned.

At the Management Meeting held in Daet, Camarines Norte on January 23, 2017, PRDP South Luzon Director Shandy Hubilla and the PRDP infrastructure development (I-BUILD) team clarified the issues raised by the concerned barangay and local officials, particularly the factors that led to the suspension of the road construction such as peace and order, variation orders and severe weather conditions. They also provided them with updates regarding the status of the subproject. As agreed, road construction resumed in February 2017.

“Nagtatanong lang yung mga tao ‘Bakit Kap natigil yun?’ Sabi ko dahil sa masamang panahon kaya natigil. At ang project na ito ay pinondohan ng World Bank hindi basta-basta. Pinaabot lang namin itong katanungan na ito ng mga taong-baranggay. Ang solusyon doon ng PRDP ay napakaganda kasi agad naman nilang inaksyunan at pinatawag kami doon sa opisina ni Governor nag-usap-usap kami yun ang ipinaliwanag ng PRDP. (People were asking ‘Kap, why was it (road construction) suspended?' I told them that it was due to the bad weather. Because it is a World Bank-assisted project, it follows higher standards. We relayed the community’s queries to the Management regarding the suspension of the road construction. PRDP’s solution was very impressive because they immediately acted on the grievances that we aired. They called for a Management Meeting at the Governor’s Office to discuss the issue and they explained everything to us.),” he added.

Project implementation concerns

Engr. Arnol Zamora of J.D. Legaspi Construction, the contractor for the said I-BUILD subproject stated that to prevent similar occurences, they put extra effort in their regular maintenance activities by patching road surface breaks and providing more traffic signs.

However, he aired his concern that majority of the unit cost of items in the approved program of works have increased two years after the project was approved.

“Hopefully, maitama ang cost sa prevailing price sa location. (Hopefully, the cost will be adjusted to the prevailing price in the location),” he appealed. Nevertheless, he guaranteed that the contractor will comply with the Project’s requirements and follow the standard procedures to fast track its implementation. 
Engr. Samson Largo, assistant I-BUILD component head of the Provincial Project Management and Implementation Unit of Camarines Norte underscored that regular supervision and proper documentation are necessary to ensure the quality of project implementation.

The Construction/Rehabilitation of Pinagwarasan-Lanot FMR in Basud and Mercedes, Camarines Norte is a P212.50 million-worth farm-to-market road projected to benefit 4,629 households or 19,305 population in Basud and Mercedes, Camarines Norte. After three years, the Project targets 59 percent increase in the road influence area’s traffic volume per day, reduced hauling cost of produce and input by at least 50 percent and reduced travel time by at least 50 percent per trip. PRDP also envisions improved access to social services as well as more farmers being motivated to cultivate idle agricultural lands into production areas at the rate of 10 percent per year. (Annielyn L. Baleza, DA-PRDP RPCO V InfoACE Unit)